Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Behind Every Great Man ...

Woman?  What woman?

You know the rest of this phrase, right? That there's a great woman? I fucking hate this quote. It's patronizing, heteronormative, and just plain wrong.

Case in point? Isaac Newton. Yeah, he of the apple, whose basic laws of mechanics we all learned in Physics 101. Dude never married. He was briefly engaged in his youth, but otherwise he appears to have been just too much of a workaholic to have a family. Somehow, though, he managed to leave a mark on history anyway.

Leonardo da Vinci's close companion for 30 years was not a woman at all, but a man named Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno. The sexuality of both da Vinci and fellow artist Michaelangelo is the subject of debate, but it seems clear that neither had a long-term close relationship with a woman. Still great, though. As are the more recent examples of Noël Coward and Alvin Ailey, who are known to be gay. A little googling yields tons more examples of famous men who never married. (Unless you're trying to find some who aren't white, in which case Google is spectacularly unhelpful.)

Even as a feminist sentiment it sucks. For a long time, women couldn't own property, have jobs, or participate in politics. And I'm sure that as a result, there were some brilliant women who attempted to channel their ambitions through their spouses or sons, and I'm sure that was sometimes quite helpful to those spouses and sons. But this lack of opportunity is something to lament, not celebrate.

It also promotes one narrow relationship model, in which both partners closely collaborate on all aspects of their lives. Folks, this is not the only way to live. You can also have meaningful relationships in which one or more partners prioritize their own career, or disagree on political issues, or hold different religious beliefs, or live separately. This is not necessarily better or worse, just different.

As for me, the guys I've had relationships with have done interesting things and accomplished stuff. None of which has anything to do with me. And vice versa.

1 comment:

  1. I'd encourage everyone to read "...And His Lovely Wife" by Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Connie Schultz. She is married to Senator Sherrod Brown (D) of Ohio, and wrote this book to talk about, among other things, the treatment she has received and the expectations made of her as a as soon as she got married. It's as if everyone totally forgot about her wonderful, successful journalism career and instead focused on her hair length, maiden name, and her reluctance to be a political wife. I've loved Connie's columns for years, and this book really showed me that in certain professions the expectations of the wife have not changed along with the times.