Friday, July 30, 2010

Well-Behaved Hippies

So . . . remember how I have this pipe-dream (pun sort of intended) of being a sort of abridged hippie? By this I mean I maintain somewhat old-skool, monogamous, etc, sexual standards, and I have no desire to take up recreational drugs, but I like the clothes and the colours and the wind-chimes and the barefootness, and stuff like that. So today, thanks to a Facebook side-bar ad (because you can't tell me you never click on those), I discovered How much more hippie can you get? For the record, I would wear almost any of the women's clothes on there, minus the slogan ones, or ones with identifiably Bob Marley and/or Grateful Dead designs. In case anyone wanted to know. You know.

I confess I scoured the site to see if they were secretly selling marijuana on there . . . not 'cause I wanted any (honestly), but because it just seemed like they might try to be subversive in that way. Hippies want to be subversive, right? The closest thing I found was incense and hemp lip balm. But maybe I just don't know how to find out about these things. I could never be a narc.

Anyway, one of the things they did have was plenty of bumper stickers and graphic tees, as any good hippie shop should, really. I have a love/hate relationship with the types of slogans that end up on these sorts of things, for similar reasons to my ambivalence toward emails like the one I analysed last time. For example, I actually love the one that says, "Don't believe everything you think," but it's because in my head, I turn it around toward the idea that things are "true for you" as opposed to there existing an objective Truth "out there," like they told us on X-Files. I'm sure the writers of the sticker want me to stop "thinking" about my faith and just "feel" things, but frankly, although my feelings toward God are often somewhat obstinate or confrontational, I both think and feel that He exists and that the story of Jesus as recorded in the Bible is true, and if I have to submit to some sort of esoteric drug-induced experience to stop thinking and feeling that . . . well, it all seems a little suspect to me.

One of the slogans on Soul-Flower, usually found on bumper stickers but in this case on a woman's t-shirt, was the one mentioned by George Norman Lippert in a comment to my last post. (George and another guy named Darren have been blogging it up on Pastor Marty's blog this week. You might want to check it out.) One of GNL's pet peeves, evidently, is the slogan, "Well-behaved women rarely make history." The first time I, myself, saw said saying, it was paired with another bumper sticker which said, "Eve was framed." I think that's the peeve-making thing about it. In spite of being something of a feminist (maybe an abridged one of those, too) and an attention-seeker, I do believe that Eve (and Adam) actually sinned--hey guys! I believe there's such thing as sin!--and the implication that we should "break rules" for the sole reason of making our presence known to the world sort of drives me crazy. GNL puts it best, I think, when he says, "As with any of us, the breaking of the rules is only meaningful, methinks, when it is done for a powerful reason, and not just to be cool."

I probably hate the "well-behaved women" thing slightly less than GNL does, but only because I choose to look at "well-behaved women" in a different way than probably the authors of the phrase were actually thinking of it. By which I mean I can think of some women who broke rules for powerful reasons and not just to be cool. True it is that there have been mistresses and scandalous queens (Jezebel comes to mind) and Yoko Ono (sort of--though I'm a little skeptical that she and Angelina Jolie will be historically viable in a real sense if human history gets to muddle on for a few more centuries) who have made history because they have not been, in the traditional Western sense, "well-behaved."

On the other hand, there are ways of "misbehaving" against society which are actually Biblically moral and upright and still end up being subversive. GNL points out the Biblical Ruth and Esther (each of whom asserted themselves to men in a culture where that was not usual or even acceptable, but did so for family or the nation, and to uphold the larger law of God). There are also people like Mother Teresa, who subverted a selfish, capitalistic, shallow society where arbitrary value is put on human life. Also, in my church history class this spring I learned about people like Catherine of Siena and . . . some other Catherine--I'd have to look her up . . . who worked to reform aspects of the Roman Catholic Church before the Reformation even happened. I suppose people who slap "well-behaved women" bumper stickers on their cars don't really know about the Catherines. But it doesn't matter. They still, in some way or other, made history. But in all cases, I don't think it was because these women were trying to make history. Or even trying to be subversive. They were just trying to do the right thing.

Does that mean they were well-behaved, or not?


Jeff said...

Interesting stuff. I don't know the origins of the phrase "Well behaved women rarely make history." But I know that many people understand it thusly:
Society seeks to place women in a place where they are insignificant. A well-behaved women is one who does what society tells her... which is to be meek, unassuming, etc. There is this implication (which I'm not sure that I disagree with) that the entire system is designed to encourage women to be historically insignificant.

Jennwith2ns said...

Yeah, actually, after I posted this post, I thought about it some more and considered writing another one on the same topic from a different slant, because I think you're right and that that's what that phrase is really about. And I think it's true--because of being in a primarily male-dominated society, women have had to buck societal trends in order to ever accomplish anything, let alone get noticed.