Against the Curing of Womanhood

December 16, 2008 | NeW

Are all women nuts? Or just when they become ex-girlfriend status, then they are classified as nuts? What makes a man perceive a woman as “a nut”? And are all women potential nuts?

Wendy Shalit poses these questions at the beginning of Chapter 9 in her book, A Return to Modesty. In 1899, Edward Sandford Martin said the following about girls:

“There is nothing the matter with girls . . . They are a good invention of the kind, and the kind is indispensable and has never been beaten. If you don’t think so, there is something the matter with you. When a race or a nation doesn’t think so, it is an infallible symptom that there is something amiss with that nation. There isn’t any surer test of the progress of any people in civilization than its appreciation of girls.”

It seems that there maybe something rotten in the United States. We live in a time of freedom and liberation. Girls can become anything their hearts desire, a lawyer, a veterinarian, a neurologist, a coach, a CEO, etc, etc. But, as Shalit notes, there is one thing that girls are restricted from. They are not allowed to grow up and be

We are constantly told to grow up and to stop being sensitive and intense. But, this has come at great costs.

“A truly misogynist culture like our own loves to encourage the so-called fatal woman or ‘bitch,’ because she confirms its suspicion that all women are really evil, and if we were honest, we would admit it. What it cannot bear is a real, living woman – someone with hopes, dreams, secrets, and all of that schmaltzy stuff which . . . (is) evidence of being ’emotionally labile.'”

As women, should we keep being sensitive to rejection to avoid becoming indifferent to love? What does it mean to be a woman, not a femme fatale (the literary “deadly woman” as temptress), but instead, a femme vivante (a living woman)?

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