I’ve trawled through dozens of application forms. Applied for every job that will cover the rent. Graphic designer, illustrator, office sub, kitchen staff, support worker, pot washer, carer, cleaner and orthopaedic shoe maker. My online sales flat-lined after Christmas. I cannot claim benefits for 5 weeks and therefore not much for me to do other than look for jobs then read, or paint or write, and keep sending out the hated application forms.
It’s safe to say the wolf is at the door, and I find myself kept awake with howling thoughts about the future. In a bid to distract myself, around 4 am, I switched my phone on and decided to go and have a look at what was happening on planet feminism. Like a hobbyist training a telescope on the moon, I do this every now and then, just to marvel at a distant media that orbits my world but never sets foot in it.
First up on the glowing screen is an article by Laurie Penny, a self-styled `radical feminist’. Writing in The New Statesman she asks what marriage really has to offer the modern woman, and whether it was worth it at all for women who value their `personal autonomy`. Penny goes on to quote another feminist writer, Rebecca Traister who writes: “Single female life is not prescription, but its opposite: liberation.”
In the room that I am laying, I have wedged a pair of stepladders between the wall and the door to jam it shut. Should anybody break in, I am not physically strong enough to defend myself, and the fear of my own vulnerability while I slept gnawed at me until I began barricading myself in. I didn’t know such night terror existed, until I ended up ‘liberated’ and ‘fully automated.’ Ironically, if I am broken into, there is an 70% chance the perpetrator will be from a single parent family.
Penny quotes Traister at length, and finally they get round to acknowledging that single women are much more likely to end up poor, “Over half of Americans earning minimum wage or below are single women…this has been taken as proof that marriage is better for women — when it should, in fact, be a sign society must do more, and better to support women’s choices.” So then, if ladies want to remain single, the answer is more state support as usual.
Scrolling through more of the article, it appears Penny largely believes marriage isn’t worth it for women because of something called `emotional labour’, which is not just the cooking and cleaning and wiping of snotty of noses we are told, but all those other awful things such as remembering birthdays, sending out cards, and everything else that people need to do to keep relationships running smoothly. Well, emotional labour sounds an awful lot like ‘things human beings do for one another’ if you ask me, and I find it rather odd that these ‘radical Marxist feminists’ wish to redefine interpersonal human activity as a capitalist commodity that demands some kind of financial recompense. I certainly picked a good article to irritate myself with at 4 am, not that it matters, I have no emotional labour to perform for anybody in the morning, I’m free to sleep in all day if I wish.
Penny writes : “I’m very interested in the notion of “casual love” – love and intimacy that gets to be as free and easy as casual sex, without necessarily obviating commitment.”So what alternatives are on offer? Well, in a similarly themed Guardian article; Penny states that she started to practice polyamory as “A statement against the tyranny of the heterosexual couple form and the patriarchal nuclear family.” Tyranny? Let that word sink in. It would seem commitment is not popular with the young left. Maybe they should consider a world without it.
For fifteen years, I often saw a married couple going up and down the local high street. The wife was in a wheelchair, deteriorating from wasting disease. I felt sorry for her, but I also sympathised with her husband, who had become her primary carer. Admittedly, I thought it was a misfortune that he married a woman who become a burden rather than a functioning, equal spouse. However I learnt that he frequently spoke of his love for her and that she was the only woman he had ever wanted.
One day last year, they suddenly disappeared, and I was sorry to learn the husband had died after a very brief illness, leaving his wife all alone and in the care of the state. I hadn’t imagined it would end that way for them, and I immediately felt terrible that I had framed the situation in such a shallow individualist way. In doing so, I missed the true love between them that made both of their lives worth living. I picture her alone now, floating in a black void forever. Whatever support the state can provide for her, it will never substitute the real love of her husband. She must know that nobody will ever love her again. Too much emotional labour involved.
I’ve read a number of feminist articles now, and many of them appear to focused on dismantling the small acts of love that make us human, before feeding them into the Marxist vernacular, where they emerge stripped of their human warmth and framed dry economic terms only. The acts they term as ‘Emotional labour’, when washed of this hideous language, reveal their true human nature once again: sacrifice, commitment, duty, and love. In a world that threatens to overwhelm us with tragedy this is how we make life bearable for one another. And it is other people who make my own life bearable in a time of need.
She finishes the Polyamory article with the sentence : “Radio 4 predicted that monogamy would lose its “moral monopoly” within 10 years. Bring it on, I say”.
Well Penny, it might be within the next 10 years for the middle classes, but there is a reason I quit my job as a tattooist, and exited my relationship. You see I lived the feminists’ dream battling it out in a tough, male dominated environment. Not dominated by tech geeks, but big, sometimes dangerous men. The stark reality of my own physical vulnerability, coupled with the stories of social breakdown I heard from many customers including witnessing violence, neglect and abuse eventually took its toll on me. I was no longer confident in the modern world, and within me a more reflective conservative persona grew in response to my experience, until I was a liberal on the outside alone. Well you can’t be two people at once, and eventually I cracked.
So much of this chaos stems from a culture of non-commitment and individualism. I no longer felt I contributed to society, but instead was drowning in a world of other people’s misery, all against a nihilistic backdrop of dark Gothic skulls, scribbled out names, blood, and defaced skin. My relationship, like most modern relationships was undefined and drifting, until eventually I felt I was living in a permanent adolescence, like being condemned to spend the rest of my life living in a hall of mirrors.
If Penny lived outside of her own bubble for any length of time, she would be aware that there are places where the ‘tyranny of heterosexual marriage’ has already crumbled and lost its moral monopoly. In this feminist utopia among the lower working class, she would find that monogamy is just one option among many and the love is as casual as the sex. Girls can enjoy full autonomy here, even from their early teens, and progressive residents are well ahead of middle classes in their desire to ditch partners and marry the state. It is a difficult thing to see day after day, and it’s little wonder I’ve retreated away from the world and put ladders up against the door. The worst part is that the continued denigration of the institution of marriage hurts women the most. By pulling the foundations out from under them, they are at ever increasing risk of marrying partners who do not take the commitment as seriously as though should, who may abandon the woman without feeling particularly bad about it. Bring it on indeed. I’ve already seen it.
I decided I had read enough fiction for the night, and tried to sleep. No doubt I will find plenty more radical feminist articles to annoy myself with in the morning.