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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Newsflash: In a patriarchy, some men feel entitled.

I had one of those annoying moments this morning where something said on the radio kind of pissed me off. It is funny because usually on the way to work, I listen to a station that plays music and has an idiot DJ because I found that arriving to work all pissed off probably wasn’t a good thing.

This DJ was talking about the news that Paul McCartney and his wife of four years, Heather Mills have decided to split up. He said that Heather Mills at sometime or another made a statement that she felt she deserved to be in the limelight as much as her husband. This DJ first laughs in that “oh how can she be so stupid” way. Then he starts in on how the marriage was probably doomed from the start because Heather Mills probably expected to have a egalitarian marriage with McCartney who is A BEATLE. He actually said that any woman who marries a guy like McCartney should expect to take a subservient role because if she didn’t, there were 10,000 women waiting to take her place. His tone through all of this was one of envy.

This DJ’s views on marriage apparent reflect our society’s views. The idea is that a man with power in his career can expect to also have power within his marriage or other relationships with women. The man is the head of the household. There is a culture where women trade youth and beauty for money by marrying rich men but beauty and youth are often transitory (I mean, no one stays young forever).

The power differential in many mainstream relationships was something very obvious in a movie I watched over the weekend: Shopgirl. There was a relationship between a young beautiful woman and a rich older man. The difference in the power structure there was very obvious to me. He really called all the shots because he simply didn’t need the younger woman. He didn’t need her financially. He didn’t need her emotionally. And mostly, he just acted entitled to being in control and the shopgirl automatically accepted it.

And that is it really. It is that so many men that I know have a sense of entitlement when it comes to things like relationships and that so many women accept this without question. Now of course, not every relationship I see is like this but a lot are and I move in a crowd of very liberal and enlightened people who generally accept feminism, who think the likes of Caitlin Flanagan are ridiculous. And yet, there is still that sense of entitlement.

My best example of the entitlement thing is one time, several years ago, when I still thought I might have kids someday, I was talking about what I would name them. I had first and middle names picked out for at least two boys and two girls since I figured I wouldn’t ever have more than two kids so I wouldn’t ever need more. One of the people in the conversation asked what I planned to do if the father of these future children wanted to have a say in the names. I said that I figured that he could either pick their last name or their first and middle names and that if he *really* had his heart set on giving the child a particular first name or something, I would be willing to pick the last name. There were lots of horrified gasps that I hadn’t considered it automatic that the child would have the last name of the father.

I don’t know. I guess that is how it is when one lives in a patriarchy. But I think that they way it offends me so much is good really. I used to always feel awkward when such things were discussed but it never sat right with me but now I know why. I don’t like all the power that so many men have over women and I really don’t like their sense of entitlement about it.

3 comments:

Sandy said...

Ha! I'll bet you wouldn't change your name when you got married either. LOL, I've been married 20 years now and my mother *still* addresses letters to me as Sandy lastname-husband's name (even though I didn't change my name at all, or hyphenate it with dh's).

Anchored Nomad ranted about Shopgirl, too. I think I'll give it a pass.

islandarts said...

Amen to all that Lynne.
Of course i took my hubbys name (in reference to the PP) and I gave him a say in the naming of the children- but we have a great relationship and he doesn't take anything for granted for feel entitled to anything.

My mother in law may but she's an idiot.

S. Lynne Fremont said...

Sandy, You are right. I dont think I'll ever change my name. :)

Islandarts, I have no critisism for anyone who chooses as an individual to change their name when they get married. I object to women being expected to change their name or to automatically give their children the last name of the children's father.