I came away from listening to Roxane Gay’s BAD FEMINIST ESSAYS with a bunch of questions based on the issues she addressed:
- Why is likeability (moral approval and affection) so important a quality for women whether actual or fictional?
- Why must women worry about their likeability while making their choices and taking action? Why aren’t men expected to remain likeable while they choose and act?
- Why is anger and disagreement an inappropriate reaction for women?
- Why is BETTER (progress) expected to be “good enough” for women (i.e. better but still unequal)?
- Why is serious feminism expected to be humorless? Why is humor so shocking when noticed?
- Since communities of all sorts are insular to some degree, why is their bias surprising?
- As individuals, we think about and expect happy endings. Why is it so hard to make happiness, contentment and satisfaction interesting? Or to see (identify) those things if the ending isn’t perfect?
Underlying all of these, I think, are some ideas unique to modern society, which is actually less egalitarian and much more prone to gross inequity. Depression and suicide are up to eight times more prevalent in developed urban societies where success by affluence. In the United States, the national suicide rate closely mirrors the national unemployment rate. Modern society creates less community and more isolation. Comparison rather than experience becomes the barometer of satisfaction. Happiness is having more and having less leads to feelings of failure and loss.
I’ve made the argument that business profits don’t have to rise every year to maintain a successful business. If profits remain stable, isn’t that success? If they drop, but everyone earns a living wage and everyone contributes, why isn’t that success?
If my relationships are level rather than full of emotional highs and lows, i.e. drama and change, isn’t that happiness? Why isn’t contentment valued as happiness? Superficial relationships, no matter how numerous, don’t fully satisfy anyone’s needs . A feeling of community ( or TRIBE as defined by Sebastian Junger) supports satisfaction and contentment. Self-determination theory calls for individuals to feel competent, connected and authentic.
Shared events, especially disasters, create communities of sufferers and survivors, even brotherhoods of pain. Often, as time passes, people from those communities remark that “it was better when it was really bad.” As people share an overarching event or respond to it, they feel connected, authentic and competent (as they respond). That group also develops bias contextual to that experience.
Our calling as human beings is to remain aware of influences that contribute to our personal satisfaction and to promote satisfaction and contentment for ourselves AND others. We have to step outside our feelings of isolation and exceptionalism.