Friday, October 24, 2014

The Frog and the Scorpion

I have binged on Teen Wolf, a tv-series, for a while. Guilty pleasures and all that. It brought up a fable I've always quite liked, although I never considered why. So I will now, with the series as backdrop. A small spoiler warning, although nothing will be revealed that compromises plot twists or anything.

So the setup is basically that there's werewolves and hunters, and each side has at this point its own internal bad guy; trigger happy individuals that don't go well with the others of its own group, but that is not at this precise moment a direct threat. The main characters go to each of these to find out the truth about an old conflict from before they got involved. Back then, a werewolf decided to try to mediate peace between the two groups. Both of the bad guys then use the fable of the frog and the scorpion to explain/justify what happened.

The fable, in case you haven't heard it, goes something like this:
The scorpion comes to the frog and asks it to carry it across the river. The frog is hesitant because the scorpion's sting is poisonous, but the scorpion says, if I sting you, I will also drown. The frog gives in and the scorpion gets on its back and they set out. In the middle of the river the scorpion stings the frog. Dying, and sinking, the frog asks, “why did you do that, now we will both die”. The scorpion replies, “because it is my nature”.

The hunters say, it is in the werewolves nature to kill us, they must be setting up a trap, we should attack them preemptively. The werewolves say, it is in the hunters' nature to kill us, they will attack us when we come, we should bring secret backup. The two groups meet, the hunters attack, the werewolves' backup arrives. The hunters say, look it was a trap, as we knew it would be. The werewolves say, look they attacked us as we knew they would.

If there was ever a setup to be used as an example for destiny and the inevitability of consequence, it is this one, worthy of becoming a fable in itself. Like an evolution, an extension of the fable of the frog and the scorpion, each side's respective expectations of the other's nature brings out their own; their telling of the fable becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And each side's telling of the events becomes an incentive to continue as before; a circle chase passed down from generation to generation.

So what is the fable, really? What is the purpose of the tale of the frog and the scorpion? Firstly, there's a million things it doesn't tell us. Perhaps the scorpion did sincerely not intend to sting the frog, and sorely regretted it after it was done, or perhaps that was the plan all along. Did the frog show suspicion towards the scorpion because of its species or because this specific scorpion had stung others before? Why the heck did the scorpion want to cross the river in the first place?

Anyway. At first glance, it seems all about the scorpion. It's easy to identify with the frog, perceived as the “victim” of the scorpion's nature. It seems the cautionary tale warns us to be aware of others' natures, and like the men in the story, prepare as if all enemies, or all non-friends, are potential scorpions.

But what of the frog? What do we know of the frog, and its nature? Despite the danger, the frog is convinced by the scorpion's logic immediately, without discussion. The scorpion could sting it while they're still on land, because somehow they have to get out into the water. But the frog takes what is said at face value and it trusts. Perhaps that is the frog's nature; perhaps by trusting the scorpion it has not only killed itself, but also effectively ended the scorpion's life. And then the story becomes not a cautionary tale to look out for scorpions, but a nod at inevitability, at each one's nature enabling the other's. Which one of them carried the responsibility, which one's nature was the one at fault? If each creature has its nature set, and neither can overcome it, there could never actually be another end to the fable. The frog and the scorpion are destined to die the moment the story begins. And maybe that's the lesson.

Ultimately the werewolves' story and the fable makes me consider if in our struggle for control in the chaos of life we put blame on whoever seems most fit to carry it. In this case, the scorpion. I by no means mean the frog, or any victim, is to blame for anything done either. Is one to blame for the nature one has and cannot change? The fable is strangely free from pointing fingers. Perhaps I only mean that in the grand web of things, in the great tapestry of destiny, there may not be a culprit or a victim, just a frog and a scorpion and the unfortunate way their natures meet.

Although I can't help thinking that the scorpion waits to sting until they're in the middle of the river for a reason.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Job Only Women Can Do

I read this article (very carefully because I know I tend to start out negative towards Republican writers) where a female Republican talks about "war on women" (which has apparently become a term in the US) and selective feminism (although she doesn't call it exactly that).

Side-note: It always feels counter-intuitive for me to capitalize Republican and Democrat, somehow.

Her point is valid, and her final statement a very good one I think. Because what I think her complaints on the concept of war on women come down to, is that there are ignorant people on both sides that use public opinion to attract more power to themselves. Whether of ingenious planning or sheer stupidity, or possible bad research, these people exist in all groups for all causes, and tend to make everyone else look stupid. And hopefully they cancel each other out, cross your heart and kiss your knuckle.

But there's a sentence in there that scratched the blackboard. "But if they cast their ballots for Foust, they’ll be electing a man whose disrespect toward women and the single job only women can do — mothering — is at least as offensive as Limbaugh’s name-calling."

Firstly, what the hell is "the single job only women can do" supposed to mean? What's the job only men can do? Sure there are stuff men do better (like f.ex. heavy lifting), and stuff women do better (like f.ex.lead airline traffic because light voices carry better over radio, apparently), and there are jobs that would be significantly more difficult for either. But that only that gender can do?

And secondly; really? I mean, the word "mothering" itself is reserved a female, but isn't fathering the same concept? Like how waitress and a waiter may have differing titles but the same job. Unless you're talking about the very specific task of giving birth to a child, which "mothering" can also mean, but I don't think that's the job she's referring to.

What the sentence betrays is a tendency I've seen a lot in American attitudes. (Surely not only there, naturally.) This take on "feminism" seems to be about raising the value of "womanly" tasks, rather than the equality of men and women.

Part of me can't help but wonder if this is a very stealthy campaign to make it easier for women in particular to stay home with kids, and in that way draw more women to that specific role, and thus widening the gender gap and increasing inequality, limiting women's options by making one option far superior. Trapping middle-to-lower-class households in a single-choice environment with only one provider; in other words keeping people in their places. Because, and this is what really irks me; that they speak of raising the value of being a stay-at-home-mother, not a stay-at-home-parent. The job and the gender is automatically inseparable. It is the choice of women to stay at home, and women should be respected for it. It disguises itself as fighting for women's rights, while all the while it cements the idea that mothering is, indeed, only for women.

This is not the feminism I am looking for. Not the specific fight for women who care for children or decorate homes. I believe in a world where women can do any non-physically demanding job any man can do, and where the choice of staying home with children should be based on personality and willingness, not sex, gender or income. Where a mother isn't judged first and foremost as a mother, necessarily. People speak of how terrible it is for mothers to abandon their children, while fathers are expected to be reckless in the question; I want equality. I want the job description for the titles "father" and "mother" to describe the exact same position, albeit with personally customizable content, the same way as "waiter" and "waitress" does. Because I believe in men. I believe fathers love their children equally to their mothers. I believe taking a child away from a father is as despicable as taking it away from its mother, and I believe that if we raise men to live in harmony with their emotions instead of alienating them from half of their own humanity they will make wonderful "mothers". I believe I already know several such men, and have had the benefit of growing up with involved fathers around me.

I am adopted. Do I blame my mother more for giving me away? No, of course not. Do I think my mother misses me more? No, of course not. Do I long for knowing my mother more than my father? No, of course not. I have honestly never thought of those things before I constructed the questions just now. And they seem absolutely absurd to me. I carry 50% of the gene setup of both my parents; I know nothing of them so I have no idea of their personalities and therefore whether one would care more than the other, or whether I would like one or the other more. The idea that someone would judge my birth mother for giving me away, in a different way from my birth father, upsets me enormously. It not only force-feeds responsibility to a woman who should not have to carry it, it also insults my father, his dedication, affection and many other things. It is absolutely absurd.