Submission is attractive?
Alternet has a really good article by Lakshmi Chaudhry about "The Stepford Wives" and the role women play in women's oppression. Chandhry touches on a number of ways that some women conceptualize feminism as an enemy, but there's just one that I'd like to address here.
Claire, once an over-achieving geneticist, yearns for the halcyon days when a woman was not required to choose her own identity nor negotiate the consequences of her choices. Her descent into pathology is sparked by what she sees as the one such consequence of her professional success -- catching Mike and her research assistant in flagrante, so to speak.
I've discussed before how the specter of female infidelity is used to justify all sorts of arguments about restricting female freedom, but I didn't touch on how male infidelity is also used as a reason to justify restricting female freedom. As this article points out, Caitlan Flanagan is particularly good at threatening women with male infidelity to make them behave.
As the resident book critic at The Atlantic Monthly in 2003, Flanagan wrote approvingly of the '50s housewife who "understood that in addition to ironing her husband's shirts and cooking the Sunday roast, she was -- with some regularity -- going to have relations with the man of the house."... This is the "rare woman -- the good wife, and the happy one -- ... who maintains her husband's sexual interest and who returns it in full measure," mostly by virtue of "orderly and successful housekeeping."
I've seen variations on the theme elsewhere, including anxiety about women's lib expressed by women who are afraid that if their husbands have more women as professional acquaintances, then they are more likely to cheat. But generally you'll see something more like Flanagan implying if not stating outright--men can't get it up for women who think and do for themselves and so are downright forced to cheat for any sexual relief. (Flanagan also assumes that women, being a bit feeble, cannot swing having a job and a sex life like men can do.)
I find it intriguing that this stereotype live side by side with the stereotype of the sexy over-achiever. After all, Michael Douglas cheated on his good domestic wife in "Fatal Attraction" with a hot hot hot if unbent career woman. In that movie, career women are potrayed as whorish and crazy, sure, but they are still sexy.
In fact, a lot of people I know complain that the weak spot in the original movie "The Stepford Wives" is the implication that men would find these insipid, robotic creatures attractive at all, even though they are programmed to swoon and carry on like porn stars when they hit the sheets. In fact, it seemed to me that the only reason that men might be more likely to fear cheating from a woman who is powerful at work is because it's widely assumed that powerful people have more sexual allure.
It seems to me to be a very weak to threaten women with male infidelity to keep them from pursuing equality. Not only does it require breaking down the stereotype that domestication is anything but sexy, but it also requires women to hang up the common sense notion that a man whose wife isn't dependent on him has more reasons to be faithful, lest he be walked out on. Of course, the threat still gets play as does anything that both bashes feminism and is titillating, but the stupidity of it does grate on my nerves.