I’m Finally a Liberated Woman, 30 Years After the Fact
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: Fear of Flying, Erica Jong. Discussed in more detail below.
WHAT I’VE BEEN LISTENING TO: Well, usually I use this space to tell about an artist or CD I’ve been spinning a lot. But, for the past couple of weeks I’ve been pumping three particular songs. Over and over. Three very HOTT songs. They are Gavin deGraw’s cover of “Let’s Get It On” Usher’s “Burn” and Jordan Knight’s “Give It to You.”
WHAT’S BEEN GOING ON: OK, like I said, I’ve just finished reading Fear of Flying. How is it possible that I’ve never read this before? I feel liberated! I feel absolutely set FREE! FOF was released in 1973, how is it possible that I am still dealing with the issues that were exposed by this book? One of the main issues is how to strike a balance between being a fully realized artist or intellectual while also being a fully realized woman. Society tells us (YES, *still* tells us) that a desire for the emotional or the sexual in a woman negates a desire for the intellectual or artistic. This is not true for men, why is it even STILL true for women?
Why must women either be “the girl you marry” OR “the girl you screw”….why can’t they be both? Why can’t a woman embrace both romanticism AND carnality, like a man can? Why can’t a woman fully experience, as part of her humanity, both love AND lust (and not necessarily for the same person)?
Reading this novel, I honestly felt as if Jong were writing about me. There are so many passages in it that made me say out loud, “YES!”, drawing puzzled stares from people as I sat alone reading. I didn’t even care. This book made me dig a pencil and a highlighter out of my bag so I could start marking it up, an urge I haven’t had since college. For the first time in SO LONG I feel like I’ve really read something that’s challenged me, changed me. That’s a feeling I’ve missed so desperately! I started crying when I closed the last page of this book, because until that moment I hadn’t even realized that sensation was gone from my life. I didn’t feel the pain of its absence, oddly enough, until it came back – and then I was struck by the full effect.
Literature is so important to me, but these past years it doesn’t seem to affect me deeply the way it once did. I don’t know if it’s because the quality of the prose I expose myself to has declined or because I’ve become jaded. I suspect a combination of the two.
I want to share some parts that were particularly meaningful to me:
1) The concept of the Zipless F**k. The ZF is the ultimate fantasy casual sex encounter…no fuss, no muss, you never even learn the ZF’s name. “The zipless f**k was more than a fuck. It was a platonic ideal. Zipless because when you came together, zippers fell away like rose petals, underwear blew off in one breath like dandelion fluff. Tongues intertwined and turned liquid. Your whole soul flowed out through your tongue and into the mouth of your lover. For the true, ultimate A-1 f**k, it was necessary that you never get to know the man very well.” When Jong introduced the Zipless F**k, she introduced the idea that women can, and DO, want and have sex simply for sex’s sake just like men do.
2) A perfect explanation of the exact trap I fall into EVERY time I fall in love. “I would become servile, cloying, saccharinely sweet: the whole package of lies that passes in the world as feminity.” Damn. I do that! My true self, my honest personality, is: sarcastic, intelligent, sassy, cutting, bright, witty, and bold. Why do I transform into this blob of super-sweet dependant jelly every time I love someone? I need to really heavily examine why I do that, and subsequently STOP doing that.
Possibly it’s because I’ve been socialized to believe that men only love servile, sweet women who don’t challenge them? That’s not, in point of fact, true…so maybe all I need is to have a meeting between my subconscious beliefs and my consciously-known reality in order to change my behavior. I don’t know. I need to let that marinate for a while.
3) Finally, someone putting words to why I ALWAYS fall for literary or artistic men, and diefy them far more than they deserve…far more than ANYONE deserves, for that matter. This quote could be about Melanie, not Isadora. It’s THAT on point. “I’ve always set a high value on words and have often made the mistake of believing in words far more than in actions. My heart (and my c**t) can be had for a pithy phrase, a good one-liner, a neat couplet, or a sensational simile.”
I feel like this book should be on the curriculum of every women’s study course in every college in the nation, if not the world. I feel like Erica Jong should be respected as a feminist on the level of Gloria Steinhem or Germaine Greer (although I do realize that, to academics, Steinhem represents a brand of “telefeminism” that bears little resemblance to the TRUE ideals of feminism, she is a well known name and it is for that purpose that I use her as an example here). She was the first woman to proclaim, through her writing, that women deserve to be sexually liberated! It doesn’t make us “sluts” if we want sex on OUR terms and not a man’s! It doesn’t make us “whores” if we want to fully embrace our humanity, including celebrating our sexuality!
The puritanical ideals that this country was founded on and largely continue to operate on socialize women to believe that we must legally sell ourselves to men in marriage before we can express ourselves sexually. People who subscribe to this philosophy would argue that those restrictions (no sex before marriage) are placed on men as well, but this is only in theory, not in practice. What’s the male equivalent of the word “slut” again? Of “whore”? Oh, right, there isn’t one.
Also, this same Judeo-Christian philosophy espouses the idea that Men are supposed to be the Head of relationships, and that women are supposed to Submit themselves to Men’s authority. Women give away their freedom, their individuality, their very PERSONHOOD by binding themselves to men in the state of servitude known as marriage. (Not legally, not anymore THANK GOD, but in the “faith”) Men do not give up any of these things to get married. Why is that surprising, however, when the entire faith is based on a book WRITTEN BY MEN?!
There are friends of mine that would be extremely shocked to read my thoughts on this matter. Maybe they will read it and maybe they will be shocked. After all, I am supposed to be a “Christian.” But what does that mean? What does “being a Christian” mean, in reality? Does it mean I can’t also be an intellectual? That I can’t also be an artist? That I should blindly accept the beliefs of others without internally struggling with them myself? Because that goes against everything that I believe and feel most deeply, and I simply can’t do that.
And lately, truthfully, I’ve been having some real problems with Christianity as a faith (if you couldn’t intuit that LOL). In the Bible, there are stories about men with multiple wives. Stories about men having mistresses and it being OK. NO stories about women being able to engage in these practices. There are stories about men RAPING women, and the *women* being shunned and shamed for it. Christianity is a misogynistic religion, it is. And I am a liberated feminist to my very core. How can I reconcile those two things?
My old friends that would be the MOST shocked to read this, in fact, belong to a denomination where women are not even allowed to be in leadership or speak in public. *I* don’t belong to that denomination, but it’s merely a different facet of the same religion that I have assigned myself to for many years. How can I, as a woman, continue to support that?
I haven’t drawn any conclusions about any of these questions yet, but I absolutely LOVE that I read a book that’s forcing me to examine them! 🙂 Socrates was correct, I believe, in saying that the unexamined life is not worth living. So bring on the microscope, baby, and…”Let’s Get It On.”