I got a nice review this past week for Knowing Joe that compared the journey to Irving’s The World According to Garp, which got me a little teary-eyed because Garp is one of my all-time favorite books, and I do suppose that our Girl in Knowing Joe and Jenny Fields in Garp are very similar in some of their personal views on sex.
Jenny Fields is a strong-willed woman who doesn’t understand ‘the lust’, doesn’t want a man, yet desires a child of her own with enough resolve to resort to rape to get one. Our Girl also doesn’t understand the lust, but she is much more clear about sex as a biological function even if she has no emotional desire or physiological need for sex, and though it’s never discussed in Knowing Joe, if our Girl did want a child, there are more opportunities now to have one sans sexual contact than there were in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Opportunities Jenny Fields didn’t have outside of adoption, and back then, a single woman was unlikely to be approved for adoption: a problem for Jenny Fields as she had a much stronger aversion towards men. Our Girl acknowledges the existence of misogyny throughout Knowing Joe yet understands that all men are not created equal in that department.
Spoiler Alert: Feminist Rant About to Commence
As for the antagonistic threads running throughout The World According to Garp, Jenny Fields, a sexual non-conformist (an asexual), a women’s rights advocate, and a feminist, is demonized throughout the story, likened to a terrorist, and worthy of assassination because her ideas about female autonomy are just too dangerous, which brings me back to the review of Knowing Joe, where the end lines state:
[To have sex or not have sex? The story, though it delves into many other issues that occupy this protagonist, cements itself to this tag line. And, let’s face it, all of life cements itself to this tag line. Because without sex the species is doomed to disappear. Is ‘Girl’ ready to participate in the disappearance of her species?]
It’s been 40 years since The World According to Garp was published, and yet, I could still write a book in this day and age about the same gender constraints and sexual expectations that Jenny Fields fought against in her not-so-fictional world. Constraints and expectations that have been foisted upon women for an eternity, by men and by other women. In 2018, women and girls are still the property of men in some societies. In 2018, we, in the US, are still fighting for Roe vs. Wade. We are still fighting for our right to make our own healthcare choices, which we have to pay extra for anyway. We are still fighting for control of our careers, our intellectual rights, and our vaginas. In 2018. Seriously. A man who says he’s not the marrying kind, who plays the field, doesn’t want kids, and has lots of sexual partners is lauded as a hero in some circles. Look at him: he’s so strong and virile and independent, doin what he wants to do, sayin what he wants to say — boys will be boys — and on the flip side of that…
If a woman enjoys sex, rebukes marriage, and wants to play the field, she’s a nympho or a whore and probably needs psychological counseling for hysteria or some psycho-babble bullshit.
If a woman is disinterested in sex, then she’s frigid, a dyke, or a feminist bitch and probably needs psychological counseling for hysteria or some psycho-babble bullshit.
If a woman prefers romantic love, then she’s just a silly little girl.
And God-forbid if a woman makes it known that she doesn’t want children, then she’s shamed for being selfish or likened to a terrorist, who, knowingly and deliberately, without remorse, is proud of committing genocide against the human species.
Since when does any of that make sense? Women’s identities are still tied to their partners and their progeny. Why? Why? Why?
Why does the survival of humanity get squarely placed at the base of a woman’s vagina?
If you google “women who don’t want children” you’ll see headlines the likes of: IN DEFENSE OF WOMEN WHO DON’T WANT CHILDREN OR MARRIAGE or THE REAL REASON WHY SOCIETY HATES YOU IF YOU DON’T HAVE KIDS or WHY IS SOCIETY STILL SO AFRAID OF WOMEN WHO DON’T WANT CHILDREN?
If our extinction is at hand, it’s not going to come about due to lack of sex, our Girl can tell you that, and I think Jenny Fields would concur.