Yesterday, on the day of my first wedding anniversary, my friend Kola sent me an article titled "Why Your Marriage Sucks." I don't know whether this was a coincidence or he was trying to tell me something, but I decided to read the article anyway. As I suspected, this piece by Amanda Fortini turned out to be yet anothere instance of anti-feminist propaganda aimed at convincing women that if they work and have careers, this will necessarily be horribly detrimental to their personal lives.
Fortini, an author who is "bored . . . by the man-hating clichés of old-style feminism" tries hard to convince herself that
we currently inhabit a vast and bleak landscape of marital discontent.
As many ignorant anti-feminists have done before her, this journalist disregards the vast body of XIXth century literature dedicated, in a great degree, to demonstrating that marital discontent is in no way an invention of the XXI century. She insists that
Contemporary marriage, all signs would indicate, is a long, tedious slog toward sex-starved paunchiness via an endless, embittering negotiation of banalities: who will shuttle the kids, walk the dog, prepare the meals, wash the laundry.
Contrary to all evidence, Fortini seems to believe that this kind of relationships is a very modern invention. Of course, she needs to think that in order to make her most important point: since women started having careers, marriage has been doomed. Fortini's ravings about the detrimental effects of cell phones and work obligations tell us less about any general tendencies that can be observed in our society than about her own miserable personal life and her exceptional ignorance about the subjected that she, for some unfathomable reason, feels prepared to tackle:
When the bureaucratic nightmare that is everyday life has become so intrusive, when both parents work out of the home, the circumstances that allow for intimacy and passion are imperiled. When are we to form deep connections? How and where is this hot sex supposed to happen? You can't stay up all night when you have to wake up and go to work the next day; no one is going to grant you a leave of absence for passion. We have, you might say, been forced to adapt to a world that is hostile to romance, our lives full of ever-clamoring responsibilities: bills to pay, BlackBerrys to monitor, e-mails to answer.
Had Fortini done even the minimal research required to write a marginally well-informed article on this subject, she would know that the only generation of Americans that overwhelmingly practiced (in the 50ies and early 60ies) the format of marriage where a woman was a perennial housekeeper was excruciatingly miserable in marriage. (See, for example, Betty Friedan's classic study The Feminine Mystique.) The idea that people who have lives outside of home are somehow less capable of forming deep connections than people whose entire sphere of interests is limited to doing the laundry and washing the dishes is risible. It is equally ridiculous to suggest that the need to monitor one's BlackBerry would prevent people who are passionately in love from having sex. (I can easily believe, however, that checking one's e-mails might be a lot more attractive to any one than having any kind of interaction with Fortini.)
Fortini's deeply puritanical attitude to human sexuality becomes evident in the following pronouncement:
If you want an intense, consuming passion, you're probably not going to be as productive, to put it in mundane terms.
If Fortini were at least a little less ignorant than she obviously is, she would know that her ideas of passion robbing us of energy needed to be "productive" have long-standing roots in Puritanic thought. Volumes have been written on the significance of the produtivity and money exchange terminology being applied to sexual activities by the English-speaking protestants. As much as this journalist wants to believe that she has invented the wheel here, that is not the case. For centuries, her fellow Puritans have been referring to sex in exactly the same terms.
Whenever one turns these days, there are scores of articles by people who attempt to explain their own miserable lives through some invented societal trends. It would have been a lot more honest on Fortini's part to write simply: "People, my personal life sucks. Can anybody tell me why?" At least then her article might have had some positive effect. As it is, it just makes her look pathetic and ridiculous.