Feminist Versus Woman, Cat fight!

Am I psychologically fucked by the stereotypes that society and our culture have cultivated? I asked myself this question as I reflected on Natalie Angier’s “Woman”, particularly, as I grazed the pages of chapter eighteen: Of Hoggamus and Hogwash. Oh, the chapter of love. I’m a feminist, and while this obviously doesn’t mean that I am opposed to love or relationships, I feel like it should have meant that I could read Angier’s piece objectively instead of searching through her words and trying to “read between the lines” of her text in order to find the answers to my failed relationships and subpar love life. I wanted Angier, as a heterosexual feminist speaking about love, to once and for all provide me with the solution to our dichotomized, chauvinistic culture and say, “You know what, reader, you were right. Love is not a social construction, but men and relationships suck; it’s just how it is.”

Also, at times during the text I interpreted Angier’s words and the content of this chapter as if she was going through the same struggle. For example, on page 354, Angier begins her critique of evolutionary psychology by questioning the reader about their feelings about marriage in correlation to the way in which different species bond when she says, “Do you feel like a vole? A macaque? A canary, perhaps? Were you born to bond? Do you know? I surely don’t.” At this point, the voice inside my head as I read was saying, “Oh, Natalie, girl, I feel you’re pain. What’s a feminist to do or feel about marriage?” I felt ridiculous and almost shameful for being educated about common sense notions about gender and still attempting to locate a solid answer to my man-problems in a feminist text. Instead of reading Angier’s brilliant, feminist text, I was reading the opposite: a Cosmo. The reading voice in my head turned from the objective, scholarly voice to the voice of a swooning woman who lives only to find the man of her dreams.

But, before I got too caught up in shaming myself, I had to ask myself, why this was so. I found myself thinking about Simone De Beauvoir’s famous quote, “One is not born a woman, but  becomes a woman”. Taking this quote a step further, I realized that I may have found the epicenter of my conflictions; “Yes, One becomes a woman, but One chooses to be a feminist”.  Being a feminist in our society is extremely multifaceted, not only does one need to sort out their feminist beliefs, but they also may have to leave some common sensical notions behind that society has caused us to internalize. Leaving these stereotypes behind is not always easy because it leaves one with a seemingly blank canvas, which can be quite uncomfortable. I have attributed my abrupt shift in my attitude from objective to subjective during Angier’s piece to this concept of confliction: As a woman I believe that love and marriage are quite desirable, and almost “the way life is supposed go” (in heterosexual time, as Butler describes it), but as a feminist and as a queer theorist I believe that they are not necessary, innate measures and am open to questioning the behaviors of men and women as biological beings, just as Angier.

In conclusion, my initial judgment of myself may have been harsh, but I am definitely not psychologically fucked. Good to know, huh? And maybe the better question to ask  is “Is Psychology fucked? “. I am, however, simultaneously, a by-product of society categorized as “woman”, and a feminist who is attempting to disrupt the norms. It’s really the most infamous cat fight of all.

-Katie Schaffer