Dave Sim's blogandmail #261 (May 30th, 2007)
Fifteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist
1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.
2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.
3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.
4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.
5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.
6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.
7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.
8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.
9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.
10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.
11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.
12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.
13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.
14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.
15. Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer.
Thurber's letter to Ann Honeycutt. See yesterday's Blog & Mail for my lead-in or forget all that and just read it here:
"Over my coffee in the morning, I think colourful thoughts of creative work, I plan stories, I think of plots, I make little lines. Up until noon I am at my best, I get things done. At noon I exchange ideas and thoughts with my friends and if, among them, there be a woman, I content myself with a casual and faintly interested examination of her wit and her intellect. If she be rather more witty and superficial than intellectual and weighty, I like it better. Light badinage, merry banter is the stuff for lunch.
About 3:30 in the afternoon, Sex begins to creep in. It knocks at my door, it rears its ugly head from behind the radiator, it calls on the phone, it whistles in the wind. I drink water, sharpen pencils and write, but Sex comes between me and the page. I fight off erotic revery, a natural phenomenon, but very futile and rather mentally weakening. Erotic revery, as the psychoanalysts know it, is usually reminiscence on departed scenes, memories of certain amorous moments, certain exciting gestures, certain yielding words, certain astounding and indefensible actions. With me it is scarcely revery, because instead of thinking back on women I have "been with", as my mother says, I think forward on women I want to be with; thus the whole thing comes under the general heading of "Planning" rather than of "reminiscing"…
At 8 p.m. after a few drinks, there forms in my mind one crystallized desire, one intention: to get some individual woman around to the theatres and speakeasies as fast as possible in order to get her home and to bed before my wit and my strength and my finesse are so atrophied by liquor and carousing that I begin to get mean rather than loving. I have never yet met a woman who would rather go quietly home with me, at a decent hour, such as 11 o'clock, even for the purpose of talking or communing. Always, she wants to sit in Tony's till she has had her glut of liquor and of seeing people and of wild talk and of being seen. By this time it is a quarter to four and everybody feels like a 1908 Newfoundland dog rug. All inspiration, all beauty, all freshness is gone. Everybody has had his belly filled with glut, the glut of our modern New York nights. Lips begin to ooze out over faces, hair gets wrassled, eyes grow dim and wavy, finer sensibilities are drowned. This is no time for love, but if you're going to get love this I when you're going to get it. You're going to get it and like it, even though by this time you can take it, so to speak, but you can't dish it out. The whole thing is rather unlovely, and just around the edge of the next hour (for by the time you get the girl to her apartment or hotel it is 4:30) lies the damp gray face of morning, morning the charwoman, morning the street-cleaner, morning the house-maid, clearing up yesterday's dirty glasses and cigarette stubs, sweeping away last evening's blithe hopes and happy dreams and wistful desires. Love under such handicaps, becomes a mockery, a routine.
That, in a word, is my day, has been my day. In books and in plays we see, and flutter to, romantic affairs, even though they sometimes carry with them the suggestion of tactual situations, are ordered more sweetly. There is a time for love, or should be – a nice time. Me, I have never found it; me, I have never been offered it. The only times I have ever called on a girl, at her home, in the decent early hours of the evening has been when she was sick in bed from being in the gutters the night before. Speculations upon this modern arrangement naturally, at times, cause me to become morose, and now and again to break glasses, slap ladies down, and sit glumly in taxicabs while doors are slammed on me. Of course, if girls want to go to Tony's I'll show `em how to go to Tony's.
I haven't time, really, for this, and it serves no purpose, except I owed you a letter."
Okay, that's really Thurber at his worst – but I was really hypnotized by it. How can you be as intelligent as Thurber and not see what you're actually saying here and what you're actually doing to yourself? He's in his mid-thirties for crying out loud but this reads as if it was written by a sulking ten-year-old. This is a good decade before he started losing sight in his other eye so it's not as if he had no warning. Of course I went through the same thing and I'm reasonably intelligent. The number of nights, soused to the gills, I'd hear "last call" and desperately order two or three more drinks when I should have knocked it off two hours before that.
Here's part of a funnier one from page 256 – "The Triumphant Years" -- written to his sometime collaborator and New Yorker office mate, E. B. White.
"The basic trouble, of course, is the astounding fact that the offspring of man have not developed the ability to become self-sustaining until their parents are practically worn down and in the grave. The guinea pig is on his own the second he is born – even has his eyes open, leaps from the womb to the nearest carrot or lettuce leaf. Dogs are raising families of their own before the first anniversary of their birth; and so it goes among all the known species of animal except man, whose young are practically no good at all until they have wobbled around the house for almost a quarter of a century! This is perhaps the most fantastic fact about human life, and I imagine the other animals never get over their astonishment at it. Have you never caught your dog giving you that straight, long puzzled look – friendly, of course, pitying, too, but puzzled? What the goddam hell, he seems to say?"
Anyway, I have about a hundred pages left to go on "The Challenging Years" before I hit "The Declining Years." Another letter to Ann Honeycutt, 23 years after the one quoted above. Unbelievable. He had sworn that he would seduce her before she turned 70 and at age 59 he was still discussing it in letters to his cronies.
I've got a touching excerpt from a letter he wrote the day after I was born, but I'm saving that for my review of Jules Feiffer's HARRY, THE RAT WITH WOMEN in the next issue of Sandeep's VERSUS magazine.
Okay, what else have I got here?
"Spiral fluorescents Extended Stay". Oh, right. The hotel room in Columbus had those compact fluorescent bulbs which I had never even heard tell of, not so much as a rumour. I am so far outside the loop on most things it isn't funny. Anyway, I turned on the bedside light the first night and I thought, "Why do I feel as if I'm in a Russian gulag or a Cuban waiting room?" And I shrugged it off. Weird stray thought of some kind. Tried reading my notebook and I thought, No, there is definitely something wrong with the light in here. Looked inside the bedside lamp and thought, Now what in the Sam Hill is THAT? And, of course, they had a nice long article about them in the NATIONAL POST when I got back…seems The PRC (People's Republic of Canada) -- which can never knowingly miss an opportunity to make Her Majesty's Former Dominion look more like Havana or Stalingrad as opposed to, say, Chicago or St. Louis when the opportunity presents itself -- is looking into outlawing incandescent bulbs because they're "wasteful" and replacing them with energy-efficient compact fluorescents. Just give me six months warning, folks, and I swear to you I will fill the basement with cartons of incandescent bulbs. Let's see – I've got about sixteen light fixtures here at the house, say the average bulb lasts ten months to a year, figure I'm going to live to be, say (don't want to underestimate and spend the last decade in Havana) ninety. Forty times sixteen. Four hundred, plus two hundred and forty…hmmm…Tell you what. Let's just make it an even NINE THOUSAND #$%@ING BULBS JUST TO BE ON THE SAFE SIDE.
And the final note that I've got here. Someone mentioned Matthew 5:9 in the NATIONAL POST the other day. Since I've always got my Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Gospels (as well as my King James Bible and Koran) on my bedside table next to my reading chair, I thought, well, let's have a look. See, here's my problem with what the early church fathers did to the Gospels. Matthew 5:9 in the 1611 King James Bible:
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.
Matthew 5:9 in the Kingdom Interlinear translation from the original Greek:
Happy the peacemakers that they sons of God will be called.
Now how in the heck do you read "happy" and decide that what you are ACTUALLY reading is "blessed"? As I say, this isn't something I have to go digging for in an effort to make anyone look bad. You give me a random verse as happened here and I look it up in the KJV and the Kingdom Interlinear and five will get you ten they can't get through one sentence without completely changing its inherent meaning. There is no question that being called blessed would probably make the peacemakers happy but that's a whole new level of meaning that has just been grafted on. You can see the wheels of the entrenched priesthood grinding from here.
"Hmmm – `happy'. That doesn't sound very…very…devout. Do you think so, Father?"
"Indeed, I don't. In fact it sounds kind of…frivolous."
"That's what I was thinking. Frivolous. Hmm. What's a good word that doesn't sound quite so…frivolous."
But, to me, that's very much the point of the Synoptic Gospels. It's all pretty lightweight stuff and most of it that isn't outright frivolous is ambiguous as hell. The peacemakers will be happy that they're called the sons of God. Does that mean that they ARE the sons of God? Well, it doesn't say that. If you stick to the specific language it doesn't come NEAR to saying that. It also doesn't say "children" (as in "gender neutral") it says "sons". I mean call me Foolish Dave Sim the Evil Misogynist (I know how much it means to you and how it keeps you warm on chilly winter nights) but I don't think that's what the problem is here. It isn't that the original says "children" and Evil Misogynist Patriarch Types like Yr. Obedient Servant have connived and schemed to get that changed to "sons". No, it's the other way around. Someone, somewhere didn't take a hankering to the peacemakers being limited to the masculine gender EVEN THOUGH THAT WAS WHAT THE SCRIPTURE SAID and that someone, somewhere arbitrarily changed that masculine pronoun into a gender neutral pronoun.
I know, I know, the fact that I recognized that just means that I'm an Evil Misogynist. A Good and Decent Person would never have seen that in a million years.
Fortunately my notes end there so tomorrow we can move on to the old mailbag.
Tomorrow: Hello Mailbag My Old Friend
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