I’ve stopped and started several blog posts this week, and I’ve decided to just be honest about how I’m feeling right now.
I don’t feel up to this task.
I want to write a series of posts about the cultural shadow. About how the American shadow is still rooted in really old, weird beliefs – and how those unexamined and unacknowledged beliefs are strangling us.
There’s this old cultural belief we inherited from Puritans that sex is just for procreation, and it shouldn’t be pleasant.
That oozes out sideways in rape culture. It is why sex sells and scandalizes. It’s why women don’t have reproductive rights, because how dare they have sex for any reason BUT reproduction. And it’s why anti-abortionists don’t bother with long term birth control, which would actually prevent a lot of abortions. It’s why LGBTQ people struggle for rights – they aren’t procreating with their sex, so how dare they have sex. I want to unpack this and write a whole post on it, but I get so overwhelmed and disheartened by the research.
That’s part of it, but that’s not all of it when it comes to women. Of course, women are demonized as “temptresses” who make you want to have sex for pleasure, or they are divine goddesses of maternity, who bestow the blessings of nurture upon children and men. The virgin/whore dichotomy is alive and well.
There’s a shadow element that women are baby-makers and caregivers that plays into the wage gap (pregnancy is a business risk). And until men are accepted as equal partners in child caregiving, moms are seen as a bad investment for a company, because they miss more time from the office. (I’ve seen people get REALLY confused whenever a dad stays home with the sick kid – when my husband did it for my stepson and nearly 10 years later when my boss stayed home with his son.)
But there has to be more to it than that. There’s so much more to unpack there, and I don’t know if I have the chops to find all of the information I need. I need to know why Hillary Clinton was not deemed suitable to be a leader. I need to know why an admission of sexual assault or horrifically inappropriate statements about his daughter weren’t enough to disqualify her opponent. I get really triggered and really nauseated when I try to think about it, let alone research it. Empathy is hard there.
I can’t even begin on the politics and social assumptions of gender, and how harmful that is psychologically. I’m overwhelmed by the work it would take to do this justice.
There’s an even older western cultural belief that brown-skinned people are somehow different from pink-skinned people.
This pre-dates slavery, and it’s how slavery was okay to begin with. It is part of the conquest of the aztecs, part of the ethinic cleansing of the American people who lived on the continent long before Europeans got here. It’s why the DAPL is still a problem, and why racism persists (though slavery is part of that, too). There are some really good pieces on this that I’ve read and cannot find again that I want to surface. There are some voices that deserve to be heard on this topic that aren’t mine.
That tumbles into the normalization of suburban culture.
How predominantly black, urban environments are perceived as “dangerous” or “crumbling” and how these spaces are persistently portrayed that way in the media. Atlanta has not – for decades – been able to build a light rail line into the suburbs because the inner-city black people might be able to get there.
The “suburban” culture also demonizes and stereotypes the rural. As a country mouse who moved to the inner city, I can tell you that I’m just as tired of Deliverance and Beverly Hillbillies send-ups as I am of the white savior teacher who manages to speak to inner city black kids and get them to turn away from crime and drugs through music or some other trope. I have hundreds of words to write on this topic and I can’t even.
I believe there’s something behind the anti-intellectualism currently sweeping the cabinet. I think there’s something about education, but I need to read more about it. Because the rural and urban are often dismissed as uneducated. While scientists and experts are deemed to be over-educated, and therefore untrustworthy. There’s something there, but I can’t lay my finger on it.
And I can’t begin to unpack the unexamined problems of class and poverty in this country. Rural and Urban are seen as poor. Almost always. And Suburban is rich. If you’re upper-middle class, you live in the suburbs, because you can afford a car and a McMansion. This is all totally false. I know some well off people in both rural and urban settings, and I know some poor people in the ‘burbs. But money talks. And there are assumptions about people with money — that they worked hard for it, that they deserve it, that they are clever, and inherently good. And there are assumptions about poor people being lazy or somehow inherently evil. There’s SO MUCH to go into with this. This is a lifetime of research.
There’s this underbelly of our collective subconscious that still worships war heroes and gladiators.
This gets warped into giving the athletic special privileges. Student athletes have different grade requirements in school and different standards of behavior. Brock the rapist got off easy because he was rich, white and athletic. Michael Vick fought dogs. He’s still really good at sportsing. How many NFL players rape, abuse and otherwise are horrible to women? YAY SPORTS. It leads to the underlying feeling that “bad boys” are simply showing strength – and that they shouldn’t be expected to suit cultural norms.
I think this is part of why our veterans are underserved when they get home. And why the ones with mental illness or injuries are often homeless. They are supposed to be heroic, and idealized, and how dare they have PTSD or missing limbs after serving their countries. This worship simplifies them to their heroism, and denies them of their humanity. (Just as much as reducing a woman to her uterine functions denies her of humanity.)
I believe this also plays into some of the fat shaming and the things that are in the shadow around obesity. Athletes – and our cultural ideal – are strong and thin. Our cultural standard of beauty is unnaturally thin. Why? Is that? I want to research this and dig out the reasons why, and whether our hidden, unacknowledged obesity epidemic is part of it.
This list goes on and on.
This is just a series of tips of an entire field of icebergs. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know whether I can do it justice. I don’t know why I feel compelled to do it. I don’t know how to do it with empathy.
I think I’m going to have to abandon facts and research – at least for now – and stick to art. Maybe I can wrap words around it with my heart, rather than with my brain.