Sunday, May 15, 2005
The More Things Change. . . Part 1
A girl of 18 finds out that a distant relation lives pretty near to her family. She decides to visit and gets employment helping the wealthier relations. One of the relations, a distant cousin, takes a fancy to her. She rebuffs him but doesn't leave because her family needs the money she gives them from her job. Things go on like this for some months. Finally, there is a community event that everyone attends. Afterward, the girl is walking back to her live-in job with other girls. They berate her for sleeping with the guy, which she hasn't done, but no one believes her. The guy shows up and offers her a ride. She takes it to be away from the others. Then he purposely gets lost and leaves her in a field to find a "land marker" to get his bearings. She has been working very hard, it is very late, and she falls asleep in the field. She awakes with the guy on top of her.

Afterward, he tells her to let it go, to get over it already, and that he won't bother her anymore. She leaves the employ of her relations and goes home. Her parents are upset that she didn't wind up married to the guy and really upset that she gave up her virginity without a marriage proposal. Months pass, she has a baby, and she's living at home in shame. The baby is born sick and dies after a few months. No word is heard from the father during or after the pregnancy. So she is now 20 and unemployable in the little town she lives in.

She moves to a distant farm and works as a dairymaid. There, a man who is working there only to gain practical knowledge before opening his own farm falls in love with her, to the consternation of the other girls working there. She refuses him many times, but he persists. She finally relents and wants to tell him about her past. He tells her that nothing will change his opinion so she decides to wait until after the marriage. Guess what happens on their wedding night when she tells him?

This is Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbevilles, and I couldn't help thinking that not much has changed in attitudes from 1889 to now. This girl of 20 was supposed to be at least marginally virginal and to find out that she's not AND has had a baby AND that the baby has died AND that the man who did this is still alive are all too much for her new husband. Not that we still hold these antiquated notions of women; after all, I'm PRETTY sure my wife wasn't a virgin when I married her--I was tipped off by the presence of her son. Still, we as a society do still stigmatize women more than men when it comes to sex. It's funny, we are so open-minded, but ask any guy to quiz his wife/girlfriend about her past relationships. He'll refuse to do it. To guys, more than 1 would make us think differently of her. Ignorance is bliss to us, and we'd rather lie to ourselves than know the truth.

As for Tess, I'm not at the end yet, but I know that in the Victorian Era, a woman who has had sex before marriage is not allowed to live. The fiction writer must find a way for her to die and I know Tess is headed that way. At least in that respect, we've changed a bit. Now, Paris Hilton is an icon and there are are websites devoted to the countdown to the 18th birthdays of the Olsens and Maria Sharapova. We are absolutely the other way, now. We want the innocence of youth destroyed as soon as possible.

Yet, at the same time, we try to shield kids from the real world. A CBS station in California the other day showed a live shootout between a gunman and police and showed the man get his head shot off. For this, the station will probably be nominated for an Emmy. For Janet Jackson's boob, CBS is fined $250,000. Then a school board made its band stop playing "Louie, Louie" because the words are obscene, even though no one appears to know them. Finally, the government in Texas has passed a bill outlawing "sexy cheerleading," and suggestive dance moves. Ridiculous. What else are cheerleaders for? They contribute nothing else to sports but eye candy. Wouldn't you love to be the guy who is actually paid to go around inspecting cheerleaders and their routines to make sure they are "compliant?"
posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 5:26 PM | 2 comments

At 8:50 PM, Blogger ET said...

1. I think it's "D'urberville" not "D'urbeville;"
2. I was and am STILL a virgin, thankyouverymuch (okay, maybe not);
3. $250,000 is not ENOUGH for Janet Jackson's boob. I am still reeling from the psychological damage; and
4. No, you can't have that job. Well...unless it pays really well.

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Rachel said...

Cheerleaders are TOTALLY there to boost the team spirit. Like duh! I like totally can't even believe you'd even think it was something else.


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