Thursday, February 23, 2006

This guy is not oppressing me

It's been an uber-exhausting week. After comparing notes with a regular client, I discover that the vague fever, exhaustion, scratchy throat and congestion I've been carting around for a week and a half is, indeed, a low-grade version of the flu. Fortunately I did not get hospitalized with pneumonia and a 104 degree fever like he did. I've just been living on chicken soup and orange juice.

But of course I had to work anyway, as we self-employed people do. I did not start the marathon until after the contagious point had passed, and I'm always very careful to scrub up and not to breathe on people. What made it even more difficult was that half of this weeks' clients were prepaid or barter, and most of the rest were taking advantage of my $40 promotional special, so after twelve sessions I was able to deposit only a measly $325 toward defraying the now-seriously-overdue bills.

This is not a complaint, merely a statement of fact. I'm thrilled that my promotion is working, and that I've got the muscle mass and the stamina to handle it. Someday soon, I will be the most popular bodyworker in Brooklyn, and I will be proud.

Anyway, to amuse myself, I have been lurking on the massively popular blog of a guy who seriously thinks that women should not be allowed to vote, or to have "careers." Listen to this:
The FI is the current poster child for why women should not be allowed to vote or hold office in any society which wishes to remain free. The only reason that the USA is significantly less culturally radicalized than Norway or Sweden is because there are relatively few women in office. The universal franchise is incompatible with freedom, as the victory of Hamas should serve to demonstrate, and the female vote is the most reliably anti-free one.
Lots of people like to get their knickers in a twist about this; I find it hilarious. I'm glad there's somebody out there saying these outrageous things, and backing it up with research, examples and logical reasoning. It does us no harm to question our assumptions once in awhile; every now and then we even learn something.

And anyway, according to this guy's line of reasoning, I am neither a 'feminist' nor a 'career woman.' I don't work in an office from 9 to 5, and I don't put my kids in daycare because I don't have any kids. Being an artist does not qualify as a 'career,' because I don't actually make any money at it. Well, okay, I do occasionally make some money, but it's random and does not come close to equalling the outgo on studio rent, supplies, student loan payments, and opportunity cost for the fact that I HAVEN'T been working a 9 t0 5 job all these years.

Not to mention the 'opportunity cost' of, very probably, never having those kids. Our hero likes to rail on women who think they can have it all, the Beamer and the middle management job and the 2.5 kids and the supportive husband and the trip to Bermuda every year, while meanwhile their kids are growing into functionally illiterate, resentful, indoctrinated hoodlums in the public school system. And he's got a couple of points, there. Corporate jobs are stupid, pointless and non-fulfilling, most of them, and don't even get me started on the public school system. Some of my closest former friends were educated in California in the 1980s. But let's not go there.

No, I didn't 'decide' to be an artist for any political reasons. I simply saw, clearly and at an early age, that I could either be an artist and have a chance at being happy, or not be an artist and definitely be unhappy. I would not recommend this career path to anyone who does not feel that way.

I also saw, clearly, that kids might very well not ever be a part of the picture. At least a 'career' woman has a paycheck, with which to pay for daycare and even private school, not to mention basic living expenses; I have a 'career' which earns me less than nothing, and I still have to pay the bills. Of course, we cannot entirely rule out the mythic Great Husband, who adores me, supports my Art, and earns enough for four. I dumped a guy like that, a few years back. He was awesome and we just weren't compatible. We artists can be finicky.

Also, I've noticed that women artists whose husbands support them rarely turn out anything approaching Great Art. Situations are what you make of them, of course. But when another person is supporting you, it can do subtly weird things to your psyche. You stop taking your art so seriously, you get bland and complacent, you prioritize everyone else's needs--gosh, that sounds like Me and Codependency. I have enough of these problems without the marriage and family.

Anyway, I prefer not to blame my problems on anyone other than myself. Sure, the 'art world' is sexist, but that's the LEAST of its issues. And I'm an equal opportunity oppressor--I don't think that male artists should breed, either. Both the economics and the psychology of the situation are just too dicey. I get sad about it now and then. I made a little sculpture, once, of a pregnant toe shoe, lamenting the fact that if I have no child, I will never get to know the person that child would be. But I take the responsibility of parenthood too damn seriously to enter into it with as little support as I have now.

The thing is, my economic training as an artist has led me to the inescapable conclusion that You Can't Have It All. The moment I realized that art career=potential happiness, I also knew exactly what it would cost me. The calculations are never far from an artist's mind--paying this bill=three hours at the horrible job=three hours that I'm NOT in the studio. Do I really need a cell phone? Three hours' worth a month? Maybe not.

People who do not scrutinize their own souls do not dare to make these calculations. Our culture is designed to seduce people in the opposite direction; sure, you need the cable TV, the new car, the neato electronic gadget. That'll make you happy. That'll make up for the fact that you can't remember, now, what your dreams used to be.

1 comment:

jackadandy said...

RE: "The calculations are never far from an artist's mind--paying this bill=three hours at the horrible job=three hours that I'm NOT in the studio. Do I really need a cell phone? Three hours' worth a month? Maybe not."

Don't I know this calculation... I'm 52 years old, and it's no different now than it ever was. It never goes away, and it never gets easier. You just hope that what you give up is as dispensable as a cell phone and not something like paying the rent or feeding yourself...

But no matter how many times I've contemplated getting a "real career", in the end my body always balks. This is what I have to do. I'm not so sure I even really have a choice.