I rarely trouble myself with what feminists think or are saying anymore. I am busy with my garden, managing the woods and pond, canning, and learning everything I can about permaculture, older methods of food preservation, and Christian agrarianism. These tasks are satisfying and are like a soothing balm for a worried mind and troubled spirit. Instead of going on the attack against the evils of feminism, these days I’d rather focus my energy on sharing the positive things I’ve learned about finding satisfaction and contentment as a woman through family relationships and laboring in the natural world.
However, I’ve decided to address, in as kind and gentle a way as I can, this article (found on AGP) by noted feminist author and speaker, Jessica Valenti. Mrs. Valenti has written what I think is a very honest article about her ambivalence surrounding the lack of catcalls from men she receives now that she is 36. I applaud her for acknowledging honestly that it bothers her that men on the street don’t pay sexual attention to older women the way they do with younger women. She could have just said, “Good! I’m glad they stopped now that I’m nearing middle age!” even though it wasn’t truly how she felt. She writes:
…as much as I wish it didn’t, the thought of not being worth men’s notice bothers me. To my great shame, I assume I must look particularly good on the rarer days that I do get catcalled […] do care in some way that sits uncomfortably with my politics – enough that it worries me to wonder how I’ll feel when I’m 45, or 65.
Although catcalling is a low-class behavior, women always crave male attention, and losing it never feels good, no matter what your politics are. Women want to be desired by men, and this desire when properly constrained is good and serves a purpose when we are young in that it makes us receptive to the sometimes clumsy romantic advances of the young men who we may marry. After that age, women don’t lose the desire to be praised by men but they must control that desire such that their husbands’ attentions are sufficient, lest they fall into temptation and sin.
The problem is that thanks to feminism, women are much more valued for their sexuality than anything else now. This is ironic because I think the original goal was not to reduce women’s value in this way, but nevertheless that has sadly been the result. This is one reason why pick up artistry can flourish when in the past it could not, especially among older women.
Previously, men praised older women for their contributions to their families and their homes. Feminism made it passe and suspect for a woman to focus on her husband, children, and extended family and to find satisfaction and contentment in her service to them. But men don’t care that much about women’s outside-the-home careers, even if they sometimes appreciate the money.
Mrs. Valenti has the unhappy habit of complaining bitterly about how much work women do. She complains about how much work we do as mothers:
“Whether you call it Attachment Parenting, natural parenting, or simple maternal instincts, this false “return” to traditional parenting is just a more explicit and deliberate version of the often unnamed parenting gender divide. Whether you’re wearing you baby or not, whether you’re using cloth diapers or teaching your four-week-old to use the toilet; it’s still women who are doing the bulk of child care, no matter what the parenting philosophy. Putting a fancy name to the fact that we’re still doing all the goddamn work doesn’t make it any less sexist or unfair”
She complains about how much work we do at the holidays:
We all know that women do the majority of domestic work like child care, housework and cooking. But the holidays bring on a whole new set of gendered expectations that make the season less about simply enjoying fun and family and more about enduring consumerism, chores and resentment so that everyone else can enjoy rockin’ around the Christmas tree…Being the holiday point-person can be drudgery.
She complains non-stop about anything women do to serve their families. This complaining about family service is the feminist way. But what men value in women most, I believe, are these three things:
1. Our sexuality
2. Our ability to care for and nurture families
3. and our ability to be good companions.
So when second-wave feminists made it passe for women to find their primary satisfaction in caring for and nurturing families, that reduced women’s value to men to only two things: sexuality and companionship. But now, with the non-stop complain-a-thon about how overworked they are in relation to their male partners, younger feminists (probably inadvertently) turn women into poor companions. What man wants to seek companionship with someone who never stops complaining? So that leaves women with one value to men: sexuality.
And what’s more, I think modern feminists sense this, which is why there has been such a push to frame it as powerful when modern young women allow themselves to be sexually used and discarded by multiple young men. These young women are lost and confused (as are the young men, but that is another topic) and sense that their sexuality is now all they are really bringing to the table, so they heap it up, but it leaves them feeling broken and empty and even like they’ve been raped.
And then on top of all that, the attention starts to dry up around 35. And then what? When you know your sexuality – your biggest asset – is waning and you are a poor companion and you believe it is old-fashioned for a woman to find self-worth in her family, what are you left with? You are left with nothing. You are left like Mrs. Valenti, wishing that the guy on the street would look up and whistle at you, and you are rightly ashamed for wanting him to.
Mrs. Valenti knows something is wrong. I wish she could drop the feminist narrative for a moment and really try to figure out exactly what is wrong, but she just never does. I hope someday she will. But for now, she writes:
But I do wish there was more nuance in conversations about aging, beauty standards and feminism
As if that would solve anything! It wouldn’t. Women will still want to be desired by men and men will still want women primarily for sex, families, and companionship, no matter how many nuanced conversations feminists have about the matter. And so everyone is left much sadder and emptier than they would be if feminists would just admit that it is our (God-given) human nature.
The antidote for being an older woman craving sexual attention from random men on the street is to be an older woman who finds her satisfaction and contentment in being the cherished companion of the husband of her youth and in her unselfish care and service to her immediate and extended family.