By way of Carolyn McCulleyI came across an article from a Christian perspective by Beth Spraul about what has been referred to as "chick porn", titled Chick Flicks and the World's Approach to Men and Marriage. While I would guess that some men (and probably women too)would disagree with some of Mrs. Spraul's points in places (feel free to point them out if you wish), I think, on the whole, the article makes some excellent points.
Mrs. Spraul asks,
"Does watching such movies actually affect our understanding of romance or shape how we go about looking for this ideal husband?
I think the answer is yes.
We may think we are savvy enough to detect the subtle lies present in this genre of films. You might be reading this saying, “What’s wrong with a little escapist entertainment every once in a while? It’s just a Hollywood story, and I know it’s just fantasy.” If that’s the case, then why is there still that sigh or even a tear(s) after the 20th viewing of your favorite romantic movie? Something in us is stirred."
This is a point well taken. When something like a book or movie plays on what deeply affects you, such as a woman's emotions, it is undeniable that will have influence over you. Mrs. Spraul compares so-called "chick-flicks" and "chick-lit" to pornography in their ability to create unrealistic expectations.
"In this article, I’d like to discuss briefly what I think are three powerful lies communicated to and believed by women through this genre of “chick-flicks” as well as “chick-lit” (literature). The lies told to women are introduced at the level of women’s emotions (less harmful, right?), in how they dream about men, and in what they long for relationally. Like pornography, chick-flicks take a good gift from God (romance, relational intimacy) that women are created to desire, and distort it by presenting as “normal” an unbiblical and unrealistic picture of men, love and marriage. And just like men who buy into the lies of pornography, women who believe that their husbands and marriages should always be like what they see on the screen will be sinfully dissatisfied with God’s good gift to them of a “normal” husband and marriage."
She then outlines the lies that these sorts of books and movies tell to women.
Lie #1: Men think of romance and relational intimacy exactly like women do!
This one was shocking to me. I mean, who knew that men and women think differently!?!? I would say "duh!" to this one except that often I think both men and women expect the opposite sex to think about things the same way they do. We think they should know what we mean and know what we need from them without telling them and that the other should "understand" without having to explain it.
Lie #2: If I marry the right man, all will be right in my life.
Mrs. Spraul makes some excellent points about the fact that even a great marriage will not, and in fact can not, make all things right.
"If we as women approach our husbands with expectations that he will be the primary source that takes away all our loneliness, insecurities, fears and longings for love, we hold him to a standard no human being is able to meet in this life. We set ourselves up for great disappointment through these unreasonable expectations. When our husband doesn’t deliver such total sweeping happiness to our lives, we can be tempted to blame him when it is our own worldly and idolatrous expectations that are to blame! Such expectations can even lead us to be discontented wives who are unsatisfied with the day to day realities of life and responsibility in marriage. We can become unsatisfied with our husband’s love and service and care because marrying him didn’t cure our deepest emotional struggles."
I wonder how much of the current epidemic of divorce is the result of such thinking?
Lie #3: I will know that a man is right for me by feelings I get when I’m with him.
In a recent post, commenterSA related a story about a woman who rejected a man out of hand without getting to know anything about him. Perhaps this is an example of what Mrs. Spraul was referring to here:
"The dangers of putting all of your stock in emotion are serious. First, you can easily convince yourself that you are experiencing “true love” while having little regard for a man’s faith, character, service or ability to sacrifice himself for others. Second, for women considering a man who initiates a relationship with them, this over-emphasis on the emotional experience and level of attraction/chemistry can influence such women to dismiss possible suitors based on her “intuition.” I’ve seen it happen—a woman doesn’t immediately “feel” that a man is her “type” or the “ideal” that she’s had in her mind for her husband—so the man is simply dismissed without ever having a chance to demonstrate his possible worthiness."
Good points, I think, both for single and for married women.
This deserves a well thought out and concisely written post, but unfortunately I am currently incapable of that. I'll just do the best I can.
Anymore when I hear the word "paradox" the first thing I think is, "oh, they mean some data or evidence that does not fit their firmly held assumptions has come up". Recently I read a post at Carolyn McCulley's blog about an opinion piece in the New York times about a study recently reported on "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness". The study is a meta-analysis of data from multiple sources which uses logistic regression (beyond my statistical pay grade) to describe "happiness" for men and women for the last 40 years. In a nut shell the findings say that women are less happy now than they were 40 years ago relative to themselves and relative to men.
In his op-ed piece, Ross Douthat offers his opinion that this relative loss of happiness in women is ambiguous.
"All this ambiguity lends itself to broad-brush readings. A strict feminist and a stringent gender-role traditionalist alike will probably find vindication of their premises between the lines of Wolfers and Stevenson’s careful prose. The feminist will see evidence of a revolution interrupted, in which rising expectations are bumping against glass ceilings, breeding entirely justified resentments. The traditionalist will see evidence of a revolution gone awry, in which women have been pressured into lifestyles that run counter to their biological imperatives, and men have been liberated to embrace a piggish irresponsibility.
There’s evidence to fit each of these narratives. But there’s also room for both."
Douthat then goes on to say "Feminists and traditionalists should be able to agree, for instance, that the structures of American society don’t make enough allowances for the particular challenges of motherhood." Sounds more feminist than "traditionalist" (whatever that really means) to me, as in society should support women's choices. He also says that feminists and traditionalists "should also be able to agree that the steady advance of single motherhood threatens the interests and happiness of women. " This actually sounds feminist to me too, because it refers to the happiness and interest of women rather than the disastrous effects of single parenthood on society as a whole. He also advocates that both feminists and traditionalists should be able to get "behind a social revolution that ostracizes serial baby-daddies and trophy-wife collectors as thoroughly as the “fallen women” of a more patriarchal age." Hmm...okay this may get him into trouble with the feminists....
A blogger at the feminist blog Jezebel has a post on the op-ed and on the study itself. What did she focus on? This statement by Douthit: "But all the achievements of the feminist era may have delivered women to greater unhappiness. " And of course she objects vehemently. Because feminism has brought only light and rainbows and flowers and butterflies to the world, right? She postulates the unhappiness felt by women is not because feminism has screwed society up beyond belief and encouraged women to become dissatisfied with, well just about everything, but rather because feminism has not brought enough equality and so women are pissed. The idea that women are discriminated against is highly debatable in the current culture (and I would say not true). But, what she also doesn't get is that any group of people who share characteristics and are different from another group of people are gaining nothing by comparing themselves.
I am 5'5" in height, not short, but hardly statuesque either. What if I compared myself to people 6 feel tall and over? I bet they don't have to get on a kitchen chair to reach the top 2 shelves in their kitchen cabinet! These tall people's feet probably touch the floor when they sit in restaurant booths or when riding in an airplane! It's wrong I tell you. Houses, restaurant booths and planes should be built to accommodate me! I am discriminated against! Woe is me! No wonder I am less happy! The idea that it is reasonable to compare yourself with others who are not like you to begin with makes no sense to me.
Of course that completely misses the fact that like tall people who don't have enough leg room in planes or restaurant booths and probably hit their heads on things far more often than I, just like men experience things differently than women. It seems to me that women would be happier if they stopped comparing themselves to men.