Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Rantings of a Single Male: Part D.

After a nice relaxing Christmas and New Years holiday I am back with another installment of my discussion of Thomas Ellis’ book The Rantings of a Single Male

Rant D: The Perceptual Female Self-Worth Crisis

Ellis begins the chapter discussing the desire of women for male validation.

"Regardless of what feminism has done to diminish the importance of men, most women still crave traditional male validation. Oppressed or not, they still expect men to suck up and buy them diamonds. In adequate as we are, women keep coming back for relief from their perceptual self-worth crisis.

Because of feminism, women are now hopelessly schizophrenic about how they want to be valued by men. If men respond to their sexuality, women feel underappreciated for their inner qualities....But if women begin to think men do not desire them in a sexual way, they panic and start doing things to attract men. " (p. 28)

Ellis is correct on several points here. I have met few women who do not desire male validation. Women do want to be desired by men (for some women it is their husband\boyfriend and for other women, it appears to be a broader spectrum of men) as well as being valued for their inner qualities. All true. I think the desire for validation from other people is a quality many people have, both men and women. I think some degree of wanting to be valued by others is normal and appropriate. In my opinion, the problem comes when the person is unable to feel self-worth outside of the validation of others. In this section of the book Mr. Ellis doesn't really make it clear what he thinks women should base their self-worth on. I would argue that women, and men, should base their worth on who God says they are. Ladies, we should be cognizant of where our self-worth comes from and not use others to make ourselves feel better about who we are. We should take care that in the relationships with the men in our lives such that we are not expecting them "to suck up” or buy us diamonds just to make us feel worthy.

Ellis goes on to argue that women prefer gifts that are useless and impractical because “wasting” money demonstrates that the man values the woman over money. In illustrating his point Ellis uses the examples of gifts such as a small box that holds nothing or a glass egg. Leaving aside the argument that all women do not have a penchant for things like glass eggs I think there is food for thought here for us ladies. I would like to say though, no glass eggs for me, thanks. I think the best gifts I have ever received from men were things that demonstrated that the man was paying attention to what interested me such as a book he thought I would like or a CD he burned for me with music he thought I would like or with a radio show he knew would interest me. But, I digress…back to the food for thought. I agree that we should be very cautious to not equate how much money a man spends on us with our value, our perception of his value of us, or for that matter with how we value the man.

Ellis also discusses his thoughts on why he believes diamonds are women’s favorite gifts. Ellis reports that he thinks diamonds are popular with women because their expense causes men to suffer and because they have been bombarded with images from commercials telling them that “diamonds are forever”. Ellis further theorizes that “diamonds protect women from being called whores. It's an archaic concept it's still ingrained in the female brain, that married women can't be whores-and, of course, married women get diamonds." (p.32) Ellis goes on to say that women do not want to be considered to be whores and that since diamonds cost so much more than a whore does that then diamonds indicate that the woman is not whore. For me the obvious response to this is that a biblical view of sexuality calls for sex to be reserved for marriage. But, as I have previously said my purpose here is not to argue for the biblical view of sexuality, but rather to see what I can learn from this book.

I do think it is reasonable to consider the point of an expensive diamond engagement ring. I am probably not the best woman to address this issue since I don't particularly like diamonds because I think they are cold. I wouldn't argue that a man should not buy an engagement ring for his fiancée because there's nothing inherently wrong with it and I think that it's up to the individual couple. I do think that women should consider their attitude toward an engagement ring because I think the issue is really more about the attitude of the woman's heart than the ring itself. Ladies, I do think it is a valid question to ask ourselves if it is really necessary for a man to spend a lot of money on the woman he wants to marry for her to agree to marry him?

Ellis then goes on to discuss the issue of commitment. Ellis theorizes that women desire commitment, not in order to commit to a specific man, but rather to commit to a lifestyle or a “relationship” apart from the actual man they marry because "it’s the concept of commitment itself that women love, not men" (p. 33). It is valid to consider his point here. Does the desire to marry a man arise from simply wanting to be married or does it arise from the desire to be married to a specific man because you love him?

Ellis goes on to argue that he believes commitment is inherently a bad idea for men because it doesn't make sense since it does not allow them an "out". He says that men fear being in a dysfunctional relationship that they can't get out of. This dysfunctional relationship could entail the wife being demanding, requiring he spends more money on her, denying him sex, gaining a lot of weight, pursuing an expensive divorce, or accusing him of sexual assault. Ellis states, "I don't care how extravagant the ceremony is, a commitment cannot guarantee anything." (p. 34)

It is true, there are always risks with commitment. Commitments do not guarantee anything. Like many things in life, commitments require faith. Any individual may decide that the risks of trusting someone else outweighs the rewards when considering the commitment of marriage. That would be that person’s right to choose not to marry. I do find it sad, though, that we are losing our ability to trust each other. Beyond seeking to be a person who is trustworthy individuals can respond to this by being informed about inequities in divorce laws (especially regarding child custody) and supporting reform of inequitable divorce laws.

In closing I want to say that I am considering ceasing my discussion of this book. At the very least I will be approaching it differently such as limiting my discussion to just a few more entries that deal with the over arching ideas in the book that I feel I have learned good stuff from. I hate the idea of “quitting” anything but to be honest I think focusing on this book has kind of “messed with my mind” a bit because of the author’s differing world view.


Finally, yes indeed, it is a great night to be a Mountaineer! Rich who?

5 comments:

Ame said...

"“messed with my mind” a bit because of the author’s differing world view."

You are wise here. There is a point after which we do not need to expose ourselves to the information for the sake of the information.

***

"In this section of the book Mr. Ellis doesn't really make it clear what he thinks women should base their self-worth on. I would argue that women, and men, should base their worth on who God says they are"

Yes.

***

"Ellis goes on to argue that women prefer gifts that are useless and impractical because “wasting” money demonstrates that the man values the woman over money."

This is definitely true for some women. Yet, if Mr. Ellis is dating women of the world, this is what he will find. Unfortunately, finding a woman who values true value and not monitary value is still rare in the "Christian" community, too.

I've noticed that most women do not wear their expensive, huge diamonds all the time ... they usually wear simply their wedding band. When you get into laundry and changing diapers and cleaning and running errands and washing hands over and over and over, a huge diamond is impractical.

While my ex and I were separated for 8 months I did not want to wear my wedding set, so I purchased a wedding band for myself ... I knew I wanted to still portray the truth that I was married, but the sickness he had brought into our marriage made wearing the wedding set sickening to me. Through prayer, I decided to purchase a wedding band. I also wore this wedding band from the time he moved out permanently till the divorce decree was final, ironically, that was also 8 months.

Honestly, I LOVED having ONLY a wedding band! I never had to worry about getting the diamond caught on anything or how many times I washed hands or keeping it clean or ever taking it off. It was nice.

***

"Does the desire to marry a man arise from simply wanting to be married or does it arise from the desire to be married to a specific man because you love him?"

I think the desire to be married drives us to marry a man because we love him. This is healthy when the desire and love are healthy and balanced. It is not healthy when they're all skewed. For example, when one desires to be married because they think it will solve all their problems or end all their lonliness, etc, that is placing something on marriage that can only be placed on God.

***

"there are always risks with commitment. Commitments do not guarantee anything."

Yes. Yes.

***

I know you want to keep your biblical worldview separate, but I do not see how one can keep their worldview separate from life, especially marriage and male/female relationships. His worldview is certainly mixed heavily into his writings. Yes, feminism has truly damaged us, our society, and has been very detrimental to men. But if we only hold a secular worldview, then we have no hope at all which gives us no place to go from the bitterness and anger. It is only in Christ that we have hope to find a way out of this mess that is healthy.

The Learner said...

Hi Ame,

I hope you had a nice Christmas and New Years.

Thank you for your comment, you often give me good things to think about. :)

Anonymous said...

First of all, you can't exactly blame feminism for men giving women diamonds! As the perennial engagement stone, they predate not only commercials and Gloria Steinem, but Marilyn "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" Monroe herself.

In relationships with men, women don't so much expect men "to suck up” or buy them diamonds "just to make them feel worthy" (as if "bling" = self-esteem is a widespread female problem that needs to be addressed!), but rather to feel secure about the guy's investment in the relationship. Because for the vast majority of men, when they are committed, that's what they do: buy romantic gifts of a value that reflects their feelings towards her, within their range of affordability. You might prefer to be given books and other less expensive things that demonstrate that the man's been thinking about what interests you, but gifts aren't always about what the receiver wants, they are also about what the giver wants to say (about their FEELINGS, it's not about THOUGHTS). If a man you've been hanging out with gives you a book on Valentine's Day but gives jewelry or a small heart-shaped box to another woman he's been seeing, then you can be sure that she's the one he'd rather be with.

Of course, a man spending a lot of money on jewelry is no guarantee that he will be faithful, respectful and committed in the long run, and it's true that there are a few men who are devoted, but cheap (just as there are some women who may have unrealistic expectations for "bling"). But by and large, as the relationship ramps up towards marriage, so do the gifts (however humble they may be for the student suitor) culminating with the engagement ring, which is almost always a diamond within the guy's range of affordability. Why? Not because women have a need to "cause men to suffer", as Ellis cynically theorizes, but because a diamond on her finger is a universal symbol of permanence that sends out a signal that says "back off -- she's mine for good" better than a book in her bag ever could.

So, is it really necessary for a man to spend a lot of money on the woman he wants to marry for her to agree to marry him? I think both men and women would agree that there needs to be some signal of material investment, because we know that's how men operate. Similarly, another blogger opined that men needed to pursue women because women needed to be pursued. But I would say it's the other way around: it's the man that needs to do the pursuing, because men just don't commit to women who pursue them. So a woman need to see some evidence that some pursuit is taking place, otherwise she will justifiably intuit that the relationship's not likely to go anywhere. As if women wouldn't like to be the ones doing the picking and choosing! Those who try will find that pursuing men can get them sex, but not love.

You write: "Ellis theorizes that women desire commitment, not in order to commit to a specific man, but rather to commit to a lifestyle or a 'relationship' apart from the actual man they marry because 'it’s the concept of commitment itself that women love, not men' (p. 33). It is valid to consider his point here. Does the desire to marry a man arise from simply wanting to be married or does it arise from the desire to be married to a specific man because you love him?" Actually, this is an unfairly judgemental question. Because men are the pursuers who don't commit to those they don't pursue, women must choose from those men who are pursuing them, most of whom they probably don't have much attraction to (whereas men don't pursue women they are not attracted to-- pre-emptive rejection is their perogative, with the risk of upfront rejection as the price they pay for it). Think about it: of all the men who have pursued you so far, what percentage have you felt you could love? It can't be very many if you're still single. But nowadays, a woman who turns men down who they're not attracted to are admired for their "integrity", whereas 50 years ago they would have been thought of as foolhardy. Many of us owe our very existence to mothers who "settled" for our fathers. Remember: wedding vows do not ask women "do you love this man?", they ask "will you love this man?". And most eventually will -- especially once the children come along, precipitating hormonal changes that promote bonding as well as the dire necessity for family commitment.

Ellis may present the argument that commitment is inherently a bad idea for men because it does not allow them an "out", for fear of dysfunctional relationships that could entail the wife being demanding, requiring he spends more money on her, denying him sex, gaining a lot of weight, pursuing an expensive divorce, or accusing him of sexual assault. But he fails to admit the biggest reason why men fear commitment: BECAUSE SOMETHING BETTER MIGHT COME ALONG. Sure, there are women who have also fallen prey to this mirage, but the "masculine pursuit mechanism" that allows men to fall in love at first sight and then lose interest and move on to another conquest has everything to do with why all cultures around the world require men to demonstrate some measure of sacrifice. Let's accept and work within these timeless truths rather than entertain the selective attention of embittered MRA extremists.

The Learner said...

Hello again Annonymous and a happy Hew Year to you.

Let's accept and work within these timeless truths rather than entertain the selective attention of embittered MRA extremists.

Yeah, because there is never anything of value that can be learned from ideas outside the mainstream. There is nothing to be gained from self-examination or thinking about issues in society from the point of view of someone different than yourself.

Especially for someone like me, since it is my life's ambition to entertain the selective attention of MRA extremists, particularly the embittered ones.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, because there is never anything of value that can be learned from ideas outside the mainstream. There is nothing to be gained from self-examination or thinking about issues in society from the point of view of someone different than yourself."

Sometimes there is, and sometimes there isn't.

"Especially for someone like me, since it is my life's ambition to entertain the selective attention of MRA extremists, particularly the embittered ones."

Well, at least you're honest about it! ;)