As you will see from my Book of the Day thingy, I have recently read The Old Devils, by Kingsley Amis. Here is one conclusion I have drawn from reading this book, then thinking about it in connection with Amis's Lucky Jim: Kingsley Amis hated women. As far as I can determine, for him the best kind of woman was a dumb woman, both in the sense of stupid and in the sense of silent.
Well, that's hardly hot news on the literature circuit. Kingsley Amis was also a serial philanderer, and he was an Englishman in the 1950s - or perhaps I should say a man in the 1950s - when women were essentially there to serve stuff (including themselves) to men.
But since I've been in England I've had cause to read a lot of the comments that people are allowed to attach to online newspaper articles, and since quite a number of those articles are about
relationships or gender issues, I have read quite a lot of men's opinions on these issues (by means of their comments). And these men hate women, too. They repeat all the tired cliches about how getting married saps your strength, about how women don't want sex, or dole it out sparingly, and about how they make your life a misery once you're involved with them. I always thought American men were bad about women, and frankly thought English men were at least fractionally better, so I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Lying in bed the other night I was trying to sort out who hated women more (and thus, of course, to some extent trying to figure out in which country I'd be better off). Do the English hate women? Do the Americans hate women? And finally the conclusion I was forced to come to, after examining as broad a range of evidence as you can manage when you're lying in bed at night with only your mind to help you out, was that everyone hates women. Including quite a lot of women themselves.
Last year for my birthday I got a ballet DVD that included a performance of Roland Petit's Le Jeune Homme et la Mort. This ballet, which is in fact extremely good (you can see it here in shortened form, with Baryshnikov) and has terrific music, was created in 1946, and is the ultimate existentialist ballet: young artist in garret dances dance of gloom and torture whilst waiting for his hotsy-totsy girlfriend; girlfriend appears and they have sex, ballet style (although she clearly gives him a blow job), and after she teases and generally abuses him she sets up a noose and leaves. He, tortured, kills himself, and Death appears to lead him solemnly over the rooftops. Only when Death takes off its mask and places it on the young man, Death is revealed to be - you guessed it - his girlfriend.
So, you know, I'm not crazy about works of art that show me that women equal death, but it's not really surprising that someone would be antediluvian in 1946. Later that summer, however, I was teaching a lesson in my writing class about interpreting literature, and I used a Cure song as my example, having the students first read it, then listen to it, then watch the video. The song is "Lullaby," and in its final verse, when the singer is at his peak of fear, he says, "I feel like I'm being eaten by a thousand million shivering furry holes." The director decided to recreate this line on film as Robert Smith being eaten by one giant furry hole: he's swallowed up progressively by what is clearly a giant vagina.
That video was made in 1989. 1989. That's 53 years of me having to listen while men tell me I'm not just deadly; I'm Death -- and there's another 1000 years before that. And now there's been nearly another 20 after. And I just think, Is this how you want to be, men? Is this who you are? What is the problem? Women love you. We fix you hot meals; we listen when you tell us your problems; we procreate your species; we take care of you when you're sick; we give you blow jobs even in ballets, for heaven's sake. We think you're smart and clever, and most of us are not in the business of treating you with contempt, to the best of my knowledge. Jesus, you can't wait to get us on our backs (or our knees), so what is the problem? And I know what the deal is: sexual desire is scary; love looks weak; revealing your problems or your sickness or your desire for a blow job is a confession of weakness; and, frankly, menstruation is kind of yucky, and I could see how it would freak you out. But, you know what? Get over it. I LOVE men. I LOVE you. I respect you and have faith in you and find you deeply interesting. And my half of the species and I are quite interesting, too. So I just wish that somehow what appears to be a deeply ingrained hatred, which I suspect comes down to fear, could be worked through. If I have that much respect for you, maybe you could try to rustle some up for me, too?
(Because to me, at least, it raises the possibility that men are cowards, and I would hate that to be true. I so much want to keep thinking well of you.)
Oh, the title? It has nothing to do with today's post. It's just a fact.