Bear with me; this is half-baked, to say the least.
There’s this abstinence-only bit from a program called “Choosing the Best” wherein they tell a story about a princess in a tower with a dragon and the knight comes to slay the dragon and rescue her. The first time, this goes peachy, and the knight feels all manly and strong and well-disposed towards the princess. But then the next time there’s a dragon-slaying and princess-rescuing operation, she instructs him to use a noose. And the next time (why is this princess so prone to dragon capture?), she suggests poison. And, while these suggestions work, having them offered makes the knight feel all emasculated and sad. So he goes and finds a village maiden who, he makes sure, knows nothing about nooses and poisons and lives happily ever after. And then the “Choosing the Best” curriculum, wanting to leave nothing to chance, comes right out and says, “Moral of the story: Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man’s confidence or even turn him away from his princess.” That’s a direct quote. You know how you know it’s not my rephrasing? Because in my rephrasing, I would have corrected the noun/pronoun disagreement. “Suggestions and assistance” = “them”, not “it”.
What does this have to do with sex ed? Damned if I know. I guess if you’re going to have a semester of sex education in which you plan to avoid at all costs educating kids about sex, you have to fill the time with something, and this sexist, nonsensical drivel will have to do.
I mean, really. The knight’s ego is so fucking fragile that some useful suggestions – that worked! – in the middle of a fight with a dragon who would otherwise have killed him and the princess is too much for him to handle? And he’s going to somehow blame the princess for his lack? What a wilting flower. Man the fuck up, dude.
And I mean, if in crazy-town, “occasional” advice is okay, isn’t “dragon attack!” the perfect occasion?
But it got me thinking. I know more than one woman about my age who has complained about the dearth of manliness in the Y-chromosome-having persons of our generation. I mean, we’re feminists, we believe in equality, but we watch these old movies with Cary Grant or Clark Gable or Humphrey Bogart and we go, “Where are our men like that?” And we know it’s stupid and we know that Cary and Clark and Humphrey weren’t really like their characters and there were plenty of men in 1940 who were immature dickwads. But it still seems like it’s different now. “Guys” rule pop culture; “men” are hardly anywhere to be found. And our male cohorts love the “guys.” And we believe in equality not constantly picking up the socks of man-children who are busy playing XBox. You know?
(Dear male person who is friends with me and/or married to me and reading this right now: Not you! You’re awesome! And so manly!)
(And, okay, all due respect to the man who is married to me – he was the unrivaled champion of the Great Spider Battle of 2005. He must have slayed 40 or 50 spiders – scary, poisonous ones that could kill a small child or a dog – that day, and they were coming at him from all sides – above, below, and all around, on our tiny little balcony 34 stories in the sky. But he defended our castle and kept the two princesses – me and our friend Kerri, who was staying with us for a few days – inside the castle safe. Huzzah!)
So is this what we’re asking for? Are we asking for knights who know how to slay dragons and keep us princesses safe? And are we, as feminists, fucking it up by making suggestions?
I know the people who wrote this curriculum would say, unabashedly, yes. That’s exactly what we’re doing.
But let’s be serious. The guys who wrote this curriculum are so delicate the merest whiff of a suggestion from a woman limps their dicks. So what do they know about manliness?
If you want to have this model of gender, wherein you’re the manly, manly knight who doesn’t need no help from no woman to slay the dragon that’s threatening her, you’d better be able to slay the dragon. No messing around, no coming in half-cocked, no thinking that beating the 20th level of Dragon Slayer IV on XBox qualifies you to do the real thing.
And the dragon is not your kindergarten teacher. The dragon does not give you an A just for showing up; the dragon does not reward points for effort; the dragon does not care that your mommy thinks you are the bestest dragon slayer ever. Either you will kill the dragon or the dragon will kill you. Are the guys writing and/or agreeing with this curricula prepared for this? Are they prepared to face the odds and maybe even lose?
(And listen, bub, the feminist movement was at least in part a bunch of princesses recognizing that, hey, the knight is going to lose some of the time – not because knights are worthless but because neither are dragons – and they better figure out how to rescue their own damn selves.)
Furthermore, if you want to be the big, masculine dragon-slaying hero who does it all on your own, you don’t get to turn around and be all, “And princesses are clearly stupid and undeserving because they don’t know how to slay dragons!”
And if a you don’t slay the dragon, you have to be prepared for the princess to deny you access to her . . . heart. (You’ve all seen Robin Hood: Men in Tights, right? You know what I’m getting at?) No running around whining that women only like knights because knights can slay dragons and it’s no fair how you’re never getting laid; it’s just that women are stupid, shallow, superficial bitches.
But after all, I don’t think women – or feminists, or whatever we’re talking about here – envision as an ideal relationship one in which knights slay dragons according to the suggestions of otherwise helpless princesses. We envision considering the dragon-slaying to be a joint project we can accomplish together using our unique (not necessarily gender-based) abilities. And then we high-five each other, drink a congratulatory pint at the local pub, where we regale the patrons with tales of our mutual derring-do, and then we get a private room and . . . exchange hearts. We want knights who are man enough to be partners.
I don’t know why, exactly, that idea is antithetical to the kinds of people who wrote the “Choosing the Best” curriculum. I guess they are really, really committed to the Great Gender Divide, for some bizarre reason. Also, I guess their male egos are really, really fragile.