by Jean Roberta
Hypocrisy, to use a broad term, makes me almost too angry to speak, or to write. This is a problem when I need to explain why I’m angry. To write an explanation that might look logical to a reader, I have to be calm enough to defend my case. And if I’m calm, by definition, I’m not angry in the moment. It’s a Catch-22.
Okay, then, here is a list of topics that have made me angry in the past, and will definitely rouse my ire in the future, because they haven’t gone away.
1) The false promises of “romance,” both as a kind of euphemism for a long tradition of unequal sexual relationships between men and women, and as the definition of a genre of fiction. As I said here on the Grip in 2011, I’m not comfortable in the realm of traditional Romance for the same reasons I wasn’t comfortable in a number of dating relationships (e.g. with my high school boyfriend who dumped me after I won a writing award, with the biker who raped me the first time I said “no,” with the man who snorted every time I mentioned my plan to become a teacher, with several men who turned out to be married after we had sex). Marriage made me even more uncomfortable, especially since my husband believed that marriage vows simply erased his private promise to treat me like an equal, which was my condition for accepting his proposal in the first place. As he pointed out, he wasn’t willing to be “henpecked” by a proponent of “women’s lib.” What would the other men of his community think of him if it was obvious that he couldn’t even control his own wife?
Calling all these relationships “abusive” would suggest that what happened in them was outside the heterosexual norm in which men love, respect and protect women from harm while willingly providing luxurious material support.
On what planet have most men offered all this to women who have responded with true love that has nothing to do with fear?
I believe that mutual respect in heterosexual relationships is possible and that it does exist, though not in large supply. I’m just afraid that writing about this type of “romance” would involve going so far beyond the clichés that the story wouldn’t be recognized as “romantic” by fans of the genre.
So, to sum up, it’s unlikely that I will ever become a success by switching to Romance, where (I’ve been told) the money and the fans are.
2) Conservative neo-fascism. The policies of the current government of Canada are very friendly to corporations, including those that would gladly destroy the natural environment. Canada still has a fairly vast “wilderness,” but it’s full of natural resources that can be sold for profit, and the Canadian tradition of a social safety net for all citizens is being eroded faster than the prairie topsoil. All this in the name of freedom.
3) Leftist righteousness and barely-hidden agendas. After I escaped from my jealous, alcoholic husband in the late 1970s, I stayed out of leftist organizations for so many years that I came to think of myself as more-or-less apolitical, even though I feel strongly about political issues. I could hardly join the local Coalition Against Racism when my African husband was a pillar of that group – and I knew he was carrying out his earlier threat to me that if I left him, he would tell the whole world I was a nympho slut with a habit of constantly picking up random men. He also ran for president of the student union at the local university when I was a graduate student there. From time to time, I met his supporters, who assured me that he was a “radical.” I couldn’t see any advantage in telling them what I knew.
Since then, I have met other self-defined leftists who have announced that they are opposed to Violence, Poverty, and Injustice, and are fighting to bring about world peace, yet too many are anything but peaceful. Or honest.
And “feminism” no longer seems to be (if it ever was) the motivating theory that launched a movement for the rights of all women. I have been a volunteer counsellor on the local sexual assault phone line for 25 years because this seems like necessary work, but I stay away from cliques of the Politically Correct. I’ve been excluded or attacked too many times for being “bourgeois” (I have an academic job), white, and more committed to my own survival (and that of my nearest and dearest) than to “The Movement.”
My younger stepson has become known to his friends for his occasional misanthropic, pessimistic rants. As he sometimes puts it, “I hate people. They’ll stab you in the back.” (“People” apparently excludes his family, including me, and a few trusted friends.) I can’t honestly tell him he’s wrong.