Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Happy Endings

The phrase "a happy ending" can mean very different things to women and men. For many women I know, a story has a happy ending if a guy and a girl end up together in a seemingly permanent relationship. And men, well, they call a "happy ending" a sexual favor given by a female masseuse after the massage-proper has been completed.

One could argue this is yet another example of how men and women's brains are dissilimar, or perhaps even how little girls and little boys are raised to conceptualize relationships and their world to different ends.

Everyone knows little girls are tucked in at night to stories of princes and princesses, of danger, and rescue, and maybe, if they're lucky, a little Dora the Explorer for good measure.

Peggy Ornstein wrote a fabulous article last year on the dilemma many parents of little girls face when confronted with the tsunamical princess culture in toy stores and children's media. Should perfectly confident, successful business women and feminist homemakers willingly expose their children to fairy tales written in the midst of a culture that considered women their husband's property?

True enough, the very same concept that tucks little girls in at night is an addiction practiced by adult women reading romance novels and watching their worn copies of Sleepless in Seattle--We are calmed, placated even, by the thought that all pretty ladies one day will have someone to take care of them.

Women needed happy endings, because for so many hundreds of years, to be tied to a man who cared about you and was able to provide for you was all that could be hoped for. And now, though a woman has a recognized right to express herself sexually however she chooses--though she has a right to a good education and a chance in the professional world--though she has a right to be completely financially and emotionally independent...chick lit is a major force in popular fiction.

And our daughters, perhaps better positioned than any Western women before them, to find a new happy ending for themselves, are felled by cartoons and cheap rayon dresses. It's possible all our efforts have been misdirected. Perhaps, we should be spending more time convincing our sons that a happy ending is being whisked away by a princess....

1 comment:

YiQi C. said...

Wonderful. I wanted it to go on....

Indeed, why not re-shift the marketing strategies and narrative paradigms to change the expectations and norms for boys and young men?

And, to dislodge the normativity of heteronormativity? Specifically, sexual heteronormativity?

The ending of your entry reminds me of some debates surrounding sports and gender. On the one hand, there's the stance that women (including athletes and coaches) should face the same standards and expectations as men college in professional/competitive sports. On the other hand, what comes with the territory for men (pressures to win and to play while hurt or injured) should be re-evaluated.