I want it noted that, as I switched windows on my computer to begin this writing, the song that started playing on my iTunes shuffle just happened to be “A Man’s Gotta Do” from the Dr. Horrible Soundtrack. Is that noted? Good.
Now, I’m going to start in on Miller’s list. As there are 10 items, I will do two a day until I run out of things to talk about (so, you’ll be done reading these blogs in a million years).
The list is auspiciously introduced with the declaration: “Here are some things to work on to lead a woman through a great love story,” which of course begs the question of “what is the goal of a great love story? What am I being led to?” But maybe Miller has some answers!
Want something. Every story involves a person who wants something, and you’re [sic] love story can’t be any different. First of all, you should want some kind of career or impact. You should want to make the world a better place and you should be very focused and dedicated to making this happen. This means going to college [editor’s note: not necessarily; some of the most world-changing people never went to college or even dropped out of high school], starting a company, coaching a team, or teaching a class. If you want to make a woman’s dreams come true, pick up your X-Box and throw it in the trash and start doing something with your life. Have you ever noticed that ancient paintings of women always have them draped over a bed or a couch, arms outstretched in rest? And yet the guys are yielding a sword or riding a horse or captaining a ship. That’s because men were designed to work. Want something. Work hard to become good at a craft. Get off your couch and move. … All that to say, part of being a leading man in a love story is being a dependable, action-oriented worker. (emphasis mine)
Oh, man, this started out SO WELL. I wouldn’t have a problem with what he says in the first half of this if it wasn’t so gender specific. Sloth and laziness don’t look good on anyone, but there's no particular reason why it's worse for a man than a woman. And, if Donald Miller’s writing life looks anything like mine, I’m pretty sure he’s not that active either, at least not as active as the men he proclaims as good in this piece. But let’s give him some benefit of the doubt – he’s clearly a career man, has established a name for himself, and does a pretty good job at it.
So, why, why, are DREAMS gendered here? Why must I, apparently, wait for a man to make my dreams come true? Read it again – those are Miller’s words: “If you want to make a woman’s dreams come true…” That statement implies that a woman’s dreams are centered around a love story. Poppycock. While I’m happy to be in a relationship now, like I said before, it’s the icing on the already awesome cake that is my life.
Let me tell a little story about a little girl named Dianna. Dianna didn’t play house, even though she had a dollhouse and Barbies. Her dolls almost always went off on great adventures, traveling the world, rescuing the baby doll that had somehow fallen into a pit of vipers, or some such. Her favorite movies growing up were ones that screamed adventure and action - Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Lion King, Hercules, Mulan. She dreamed of writing the next Great American Novel (this was before she realized that she’s not a fiction writer). She wanted to put down on paper all these great adventures she was going to have – she dreamed of traveling the world, of living within different cultures, of making friends all over the place.
When she got to high school and met girls who had been planning their wedding from the age of five, she was confused and wondered if there was something wrong with her because she’d never given it a second thought – she always pictured a husband after she had a career as a vet, lawyer, pastor, whatever, already established.
When she got to college, sure, she would like a husband, but the lack of one didn’t make her cry into her pillow at night. Instead, she signed up for a semester abroad in England, and got the traveling bug. She discovered academic pursuit; she chased philosophical concepts about God down the rabbit hole, discussing metaphorical, univocal and equivocal language, free will and the problem of evil, immutability and its relationship to the Incarnation. She was completely taken in by the ancient stone, by the mass of books at her fingertips, by the subtle and yet distinct ways English culture differed from her own, and by the way she could make sense out of the world by putting words on a page.
From there, she graduated and went to a top rated graduate school with full funding. She delved further into the world of literature, discovered an angle for social justice (that was already inkling at the back of her head) and boom, a full-fledged dream to be a writer was born. Without writing, she felt, she could never be happy. She traveled some more, hitting cities in the US and the countries of India, Japan, and South Korea. She could see how each of these experiences was turning her into who she wanted to be.
So, Mr. Miller, where are my dreams in your picture? How is my man supposed to “lead” me? Are all my dreams supposed to be wrapped up in him? Because…that’s simply not my reality. If I dropped my dreams so he could pursue his, I’d end up resenting him, and things wouldn’t end well. A great love story is not about one person’s dreams being fulfilled in the leadership of the other. It is about finding a way to make those dreams work together, and compromising so that both people can feel fulfilled, not only in their relationship, but in their vision for their life.
Oh, and your point about art and women being inactive, reclining, weaklings while men go off to fight battles? Caravaggio begs to differ.
[caption id="attachment_551" align="aligncenter" width="382" caption="Judith Beheading Holofernes. Caravaggio. 1598-99. Hangs at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica at Palazzo Barberini, Rome."][/caption]
On to the second point:
Choose the right women to date. The book of Proverbs was primarily written to men, and while there is a great deal of advice in the book about work ethic and finances, a significant percentage of the book is spent warning men to stay away from certain women. Is she seductive? Stay away. Is she nagging? Stay away. Is she sexually promiscuous? Stay away. … Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t date a girl with a past [editor’s note: I think his “for the girls” post may say different]. One of my all-time favorite girlfriends, a girl I consider amazing and will make a terrific wife to somebody some day, actually spent years of her life living with a guy and has a fairly liberal standard regarding sexuality. That said, though, she’s not seductive, and she’s completely honest about her philosophy. In other words, we may not agree about everything regarding sex, but the woman has integrity. I’d take a non-Christian woman with integrity over a Christian seductress any day, and I’d be a happier man for making that decision. You want a woman who is looking for a man, not a woman who is looking for men. Seriously, guys, just stay away from the woman who leads with her seductive side.
I have a quibble with his interpretation of Proverbs, and though it’s been a while since I’ve taken that class on “The Psalms and Wisdom Literature,” I’m pretty sure I remember Proverbs having a whole lot of symbolism. In other words, Proverbs isn’t LITERALLY saying “stay away from seductive women” but instead is using the image of a seductress to represent a poor decision. It’s a fine distinction, but that’s metaphor for you. It's like taking, say, a political statement describing a person as an “attack dog” as a warning to stay away from dogs. Might be a good idea on some level, but it misses the point. I mean, if one can’t see that a woman being the source of all bad decisions might be, y’know, a METAPHOR FOR BAD DECISIONS, then I’m not inclined to take the advice seriously.
The second thing I have a quibble with is his inclusion of “nagging” as being as bad as “seduction” (taking what I presume to be the bad definition of seduction seriously here, which I’ll get to in a minute). “Nagging” is such a caricature and is not a whole person’s personality. I may do what some would call as “nagging.” Does that mean that all men should stay away from me because I insist on answers for some questions? No, because my whole personality is not defined by nagging.
Nor is my whole personality defined by seduction. I hope I can be a seductive woman – I want to be able to seduce my husband! It’s part of sex! The definition of “seduction” here is one with which I’m clearly just not familiar. And I have to say, I laughed out loud at “Christian seductress” because…what is that? What in the world is a Christian seductress? The picture I’m getting is a girl in lingerie handing out Jack Chick tracts. Pretty sure that’s not what he meant, but the writing is so unclear that I can’t even address the issue.
Notice, however, that he says "choose the right women to date," but then simply says who not to date. Nothing is said about what sort of things the woman should have, what sort of goals in her life, what sort of spiritual practice or spirituality at all should exist. No, he chooses to define the right women by what they are not. What a short shrift that is for women - it teaches his audience to judge women based solely on one thing - how they perform their sexuality - and ignore all the possible things that could make them good. You could find a woman who has a clean sexual past, does not behave in a seductive or nagging manner, and still is a terrible person. Defining "the right women" by telling us all about the wrong ones functionally useless.
Take it this way: if I tell you I bought a new dress that's just right for me, and you asked about it, and my reply was, "Well, it's not purple," that tells you absolutely nothing worth knowing about my new dress. Likewise, you can't really say, "Choose the right women," and then say, "not these ones." That doesn't give us a clear picture.
Women are so much more than whatever it is we happen to not be. And we have a right to be seen as a whole person.