Fastidiousness, Feminism, and Homelessness


Trundling about the internets Sunday morning, I noticed I had a trackback from a blog I hadn’t seen before: Fastidious.

So, I clicked on over to see what this blogger had to say about what I’d said.  Actually, it turned out that it was not Fastidious herself, but her “dear husband” cosbysweater who’d blogged on the appalling lack of facts and statistics in my rant and some of the other progressive bloggers’ posts on healthcare and the public option.

After responding to his post and providing some quotes and a link, I explored further into the blog of this “young, married, female right-winger” to try to ascertain exactly who she is and where she’s from.

Well, I still don’t know, but I do know that something I read in Fastidious’  “About” section stuck in my craw all day, so I’m going to post about it here (she’ll see all my link love and come visit, I’m sure).

Fastidious celebrates the anonymity of the ‘nets by declining to reveal her identity, and she has a long list of things she likes and an even longer list of things she doesn’t like.  She doesn’t like the following:

generally, folks who refuse to read, folks who aren’t interested in learning, that every game for the Wii MUST use the Wiimote gimmick,[…]caged animals as pets (birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, etc.), big cities, Air America, Marxism, socialism, big government, “green” life-styles, anything “save the planet,” leaving messes around the house, romance movies, chick-flicks, psychology, ignorance, laziness, liberalism, militant feminism, energy saving light bulbs, MTV, Katy Perry, the amount of time I spend in front of a screen on a daily basis (TV, computer, projection, etc)…, and Keith Olbermann

OK, so we’ve established that she doesn’t like many of the things that I believe in, but I’ll admit I don’t like MTV or keeping caged pets either.  So we’ve got at least a little in common.

But you see that little bracketed section that I’ve omitted?  I’ve done that precisely to keep up the suspense.  The other thing she doesn’t like is this:

women who live as shack-up whores

I’ll admit I’d never heard that phrase before, but it set off my feminist alarm.  There are a lot of -isms in that passage of dislikes, and there are a few “folks,” but this is just plain “women” who do something, and the young, newly-married right-wing  Fastidious doesn’t like them.  And there is no corresponding dislike of men who do whatever that thing is.

So, I Googled “shack-up whore” to find out exactly what it is those women-disliked-by-Fastidious do.  Here’s the Urban Dictionary definition:

When a dunbass ho gives up the pussy only because she needs a place to live to get off the street.
I banged he bejeebers out of Claire and the next thing I knew her ass was moved in to my hizzhouse with all dem kids! She is nuttn but a shack up whore!

Misspellings aside, here’s my translation: a woman in a desperate situation moves in (and has intercourse) with a man to get herself (and possibly also her children) off the street.  Apparently, in the new urban lingo, that makes her a whore rather than a woman making a choice that she hopes will protect her and her family.

That’s totally a person to dislike.  A person making a desperately hard choice.  Maybe a young, newly-married, twenty-something right-winger can never imagine that she, herself, could ever get into such a dreadful, shameful situation, so she doesn’t like women who do.

Isn’t it nice to be that privileged?

But, you know, I’m sure if the man of property in the above scenario deigns to marry this woman, then she’s no longer a “shack up whore,” she’s a respectable member of the community.   A wife!  Huzzah!

I’m trying to think if there’s a corresponding derogatory phrase that applies to men who do this sort of thing, but all I can think of is “deadbeat boyfriend.”  As in, My deadbeat banjo-pickin’ boyfriend hasn’t paid his share of the rent in five months!

(This is by no means meant to vilify banjo players.  It could just as easily be “drummer.”) 😉

But “deadbeat boyfriend” just doesn’t have the same ring as “shack-up whore,” does it?  It doesn’t indicate a shameful sexual compromise on his part, does it?

But it pretty much boils down to the same situation: One person is paying the bills; the other person is sleeping with that person and living in their house and (supposedly) not paying the bills.  Basically, trying to stay off the street.

OK–now let me pose this question: is it more dangerous for a woman to be on the streets or for a man to be on the streets? Conventional wisdom suggests that it is more dangerous for a woman to be on the streets, and both male and female panhandlers agree with that assertion in the interviews linked to at left.

However, it’s difficult to find studies that quantify the differences, though one study has shown that homeless women tend to spend less time on the streets and unsheltered than homeless men. The suggestion in a number places on the web is that there are more resources available for homeless women, especially those with children.

Another study (in Canada) found that death rates among younger homeless women (<45) were close to the same as those of younger homeless men, though death rates of older homeless women were less than that of older homeless men.

The study linked to in the last paragraph only followed women who were not caring for minor children.  One might reasonably assume that a woman with children might be more likely to seek shelter more quickly–whether through friends, family, state or local shelters, if available, or a kind-enough-seeming man who allows her and her children to move in.

Also in the course of my research, I also came across a travel site discussing gender differences in travelers’ experiences.  While many of the female commenters said they used more caution than men did, especially while traveling solo, a number of them also said they felt they received more help and more hospitality on their travels because of the perception that, as women, they needed “protection.”

While obviously being homeless and traveling solo are not the same, they do present some similar circumstances, and the resources out there (especially the myriad “safety tips for women travelers”) suggest that there’s a deep-seated belief [PDF alert!] in both genders that women are in more danger when they’re out on their own than men are.

While I realize I’m getting into psychology now (which, remember, Fastidious also doesn’t like), my theory here is that, by-and-large, women are raised and enculturated to view being homeless or even just out on their own as a dangerous situation–something to be avoided or, if unavoidable, prepared for and/or gotten out of as soon as possible.

It’s possible (not probable, but certainly possible), that in certain circumstances, women who are homeless or are traveling solo may be somewhat more safe because of the perception that they are less so.

As a feminist, this presents an interesting discussion–an unequal society (as well as other factors) generates a lack of safety for women that, in turn, generates a perception of danger for unaccompanied/unsheltered women that, in turn, may generate a backlash of sympathy/support for these women that men in similar circumstances don’t receive.

But let’s get back to the “shack up whore.”

When the message  that it is extremely dangerous for a woman to be homeless and/or on her own is constantly reinforced (and, of course, it IS dangerous–whether or not it’s more or less so than a person’s perception), that perception of danger may be a big reason why women seek what seems like a safer situation than the streets or the shelters–especially if they have children they’re responsible for.

That perceived safer situation may be a man who is willing to allow the woman (and her children, if any) to live in his house or apartment, perhaps with the tacit understanding that there will be intimacy between the two of them.

It seems to me that the shame is not in the woman’s choice; the shame is that she is forced to make the choice out of fear and desperation.

And further, it’s shameful to–from a position of extreme privilege–single out  for “dislike” a group of women who are in the difficult position of making that choice.

Advertisements

10 responses to this post.

  1. Hiya there,

    Thanks for the link back. It’s been a while since something I wrote has been analyzed in such detail, so I’ll do my best to answer your challenge!

    There are a few things I think I get from your post: (1) the label shack-up whore is unnerving to you because you’ve got feminist leanings, (2) you appreciated the link from cosbysweater08 but were upset that cosbysweater08 didn’t discern a rant from an argument, and (3) you’re unfamiliar with the term “shack-up whore,” and based on the definition you’ve found, you’re uncomfortable with my usage of the term.

    “Misspellings aside, here’s my translation: a woman in a desperate situation moves in (and has intercourse) with a man to get herself (and possibly also her children) off the street. Apparently, in the new urban lingo, that makes her a whore rather than a woman making a choice that she hopes will protect her and her family.”

    Naturally, the following really only applies to the young women who are lucky enough to live in the Western world where we enjoy (generally!) unprecedented freedoms. You’ve given a dimension (homeless?) that I never intended (I’ll get to that in a bit!).

    Shack-up whore generally refers to young women who fall prey to the idea that living with a young “man” without marriage is the same as living with a husband in wedlock.

    It is not. Can I speak about hypotheticals here?

    Boyfriend has no obligation, really, to care for girlfriend, see her through illness, sacrifice for her, provide for her, etc. He’s only made some sort of agreement with her, and she’s agreed.

    Husband has made vows before his friends, his (and his wife’s?) God, and (unfortunately) the state to do such. If he doesn’t, not only is he held morally accountable (hopefully) by his peers and church, but he can also be held legally responsible as well.

    Your definition went into an entirely different direction than I’d ever heard before or intended. I am speaking about women who are a part of the “privileged” class that you assigned to me: middle-class, educated, and economically independent. These are the women who have enjoyed the “blessings” of what the women’s right movement has given them (the ability to be educated and economically independent).

    (And to throw something even more interesting into the mix: I’m not opposed to gay marriage. As I have been reflecting on it while watching the Prop * protests and seeing the rumblings coming out of New England, I’ve learned that it seems silly to insist on the one hand that marriage and shacking up are different, but then on the other hand insist that the state must somehow deny marriage to people who wish it for themselves because they happen to want to marry someone of the same sex. Indeed, the impulse to demand marriage here seems to suggest the marriage and living together entail two very different things.)

    “That’s totally a person to dislike. A person making a desperately hard choice. Maybe a young, newly-married, twenty-something right-winger can never imagine that she, herself, could ever get into such a dreadful, shameful situation, so she doesn’t like women who do.”

    I do hope that from the lists there, you can see that I do have my tongue firmly in my cheek. If a woman chooses to co-habitate with her boyfriend/lover/non-husband, no problem. I’m not going to shun her or say that she needs to wear a scarlet letter. If she asks me why I chose marriage instead or co-habitation or why I might not like co-habitation, then I’ll be more than happy to explain (as I am attempting to do here). This is a conversation that I’ve had many a time with my friends who chose not to marry but to cohabitate.

    “I’m trying to think if there’s a corresponding derogatory phrase that applies to men who do this sort of thing, but all I can think of is ‘deadbeat boyfriend.’ As in, My deadbeat banjo-pickin’ boyfriend hasn’t paid his share of the rent in five months!”

    Yes. That seems to work. Though, as you say, we don’t want to insult banjo pickers.

    There are a whole host of other slurs that come to mind, too! That’s a perfectly reasonable criticism, and I’m happy to edit into the page a corresponding term to reflect my disdain for a “man” who would behave in such a manner.

    “But “deadbeat boyfriend” just doesn’t have the same ring as “shack-up whore,” does it? It doesn’t indicate a shameful sexual compromise on his part, does it?”

    That the language doesn’t have corresponding pejorative language for men… I hope you aren’t going to hold me to account for that? I might think I’m powerful in my own little universe, but I do not have control over language. 🙂

    “While I realize I’m getting into psychology now (which, remember, Fastidious also doesn’t like), my theory here is that, by-and-large, women are raised and enculturated to view being homeless or even just out on their own as a dangerous situation–something to be avoided or, if unavoidable, prepared for and/or gotten out of as soon as possible.”

    I didn’t have homeless American women in mind in the bit from me that you quoted… I can see that it would be difficult to deduce what I had in mind because it’s just a bullet point list. You have, however, given me quite a bit to think about in terms of sexual choices and trading sex/intimacy for shelter.

    “Being out on your own”? Do you mean living alone? Why would that be dangerous or need to be avoided ASAP? Again, that’s one of the blessings that we could argue the women’s rights movement in America has given us: women can live on their own without being stigmatized as spinsters.

    Why would being homeless be stigmatized? Many homeless Americans, as I am sure you would agree, are there not of their own choice. It would be silly to hold someone accountable for something he/she had no ability to affect.

    However, living with a man (or woman) while not demanding that he (or she) make vows in front of family, friends, and God (or not, if God’s not your thing) is a choice that we can examine.

    “When the message that it is extremely dangerous for a woman to be homeless and/or on her own is constantly reinforced (and, of course, it IS dangerous–whether or not it’s more or less so than a person’s perception), that perception of danger may be a big reason why women seek what seems like a safer situation than the streets or the shelters–especially if they have children they’re responsible for.”

    I’d hate to think that a woman would somehow needs a man in order to survive if she finds herself in difficult economic situations.

    “As a feminist, this presents an interesting discussion–an unequal society (as well as other factors) generates a lack of safety for women that, in turn, generates a perception of danger for unaccompanied/unsheltered women that, in turn, may generate a backlash of sympathy/support for these women that men in similar circumstances don’t receive.”

    Can you clarify here what you mean by “unequal” society? I hear a lot of people using the term but everyone seems to have a different idea when they employ it.

    Unaccompanied women = single women by choice (never married/divorced) or single by change (widowed)? Do we have to define a woman by whether or not she’s “accompanied” by a man?

    Unsheltered = homeless?

    Again, just to clarify, your definition brought into the fold homeless American women… I did not intend that meaning… however, you’ve given me something to digest, and I do hope to have a more substantial response to your criticisms.

    I’m curious to see where the conversation takes us and what I can learn from your perspective about marrying or not marrying and how such choices affect women.

    Fastidious

  2. Typos…

    “Prop *” should read “Prop 8.”

    “chose marriage instead or co-habitation” should read “instead of cohabitation.”

  3. It’s funny that the only real difference between a stay at home mom and a “shack up whore” is basically a $40 license from the county. I guess conservatives ❤ government regulation.

    There's a lot not to like about that blog. I almost did a post when it first went up, but I couldn't stand thinking about the inevitable, "DakotaWomen say they're feminists but they really HATE WOMEN" onslaught that would follow. Because if you think any woman is a little goofy, you're not really a feminist 😛

  4. Posted by flyingtomato on September 14, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    A very quick note, Fastidious, to say I’m thrilled at your response, and I will take the time to read and respond to the numerous questions you raise. BTW: in the interest of full disclosure, I did think, at first, you meant women who live with their boyfriends (or partners–a term I like better because really, calling my partner a “boyfriend” seems rather silly). But I’ll get to all that when I get a better moment to fully digest and discuss. First, I’d better digest some dinner to go along with my end-of-workday beer!

    –re.

  5. Posted by redhatterb on September 14, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I’m 69 and I could care less if a couple gets married or moves in together. I have become real enlightened since 1983. Basically it isn’t anybody’s business if a couple wants to get married or just live together. Just like abortion isn’t anybody’s business but the woman involved. Several years ago I read an article stating that married women aren’t any different than whores, especially if they don’t work outside the home. In this article what it amounted to was that married women are just like whores because they depend on men for certain things, not just sex. Even if the married woman works, she is still depending on her husband for some material things because his income makes it possible for her to have more material things.

  6. He’s only made some sort of agreement with her, and she’s agreed.

    Ain’t that the essence of freedom and equality? I can’t see how agreements between consenting folk are the pervue of gods or governments.

  7. Just don’t ask Fastidious about her opinion of Obama (and whether he’s a secret Muslim terrorist in disguise) unless you really need a laugh.

  8. What I quickly grew tired of: Guess….

  9. Posted by flyingtomato on September 16, 2009 at 8:19 am

    ??? Was there supposed to be a link there?

  10. Not from me, just commenting on a certain headline style on the page in question.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: