Just Shelley

Honor be not proud

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I watched the movie A Few Good Men tonight. If you haven’t seen it, it features Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore in a story about the Marine Corps, murder, and, ultimately, the question of honor. Honor and the Corps. Honor and service to one’s country. Honor and pride.

Honor. What is the true nature of honor? Honor is not based on blind service to God or country. Nor is it based on pride; if anything, pride is the antithesis of honor. Instead, honor is based on knowing, deep down inside oneself, what is fundamentally right and following that rightness, regardless of the consequences. That is honor.

I inherited much from my father besides my name. I inherited his Celtic coloring as well as his Celtic temper. We’re both tall, though age has reduced his frame so that we now see eye to eye. He has a sweet tooth and so do I, and we both consider it a rare treat to indulge our love for fine pastry with a really good cup of tea (loose good quality tea, pre-heated china pot, boiling, not hot water). He’ll be 92 years old next week, and I can only hope that I inherit his longevity, though I am not so sure I would want to pay the price he has paid to live as long as he has.

I inherited one other thing from my father: his sense of honor. Sometimes unbending, frequently unyielding and unforgiving, but always there, deep down inside. At times I’m not sure if its a blessing or a curse.

Yesterday as I watched discussions unfold about the issue of “girlism”, I was so impressed by the many different responses in my comments and elsewhere. Steve provided a wonderful discussion about ‘new’ feminism meeting old within his class. Dorothea continued the discussion, adding her own important points, which are reflected and refined at Baldur, and enriched by Tom. Ruzz also joins the discussion:real power has nothing to do with sex.

I was disappointed, though, with my own writing. It didn’t convey why I reacted so strongly. It left the impression that the discussion was about gender equality, when it wasn’t. At least, not for me. Or that the discussion was about feminism and stereotypes, and, on reflection, I realized that wasn’t why I was so unhappy. Tonight I finally realized why I was so deeply bothered about this “girlism” — it was a question of honor.

We’ve long known that sex sells, which is why ads always feature beautiful women and studly men. I don’t fight this because I see the world of marketing to be an artificial one; one that lives over there but not in my neighborhood. But when people matter of factly discuss women using sex — flirting, winking, tight clothes — as a way to get power, I cringe, not because I know this behavior doesn’t exist, but because I know that some people will see this behavior in one woman and generalize it to other women. Other women such as myself.

Regardless of how much I want to change the world, burn a trail, get power, I cannot do so at the cost of ‘honor’. Even something as trivial as a wink, standing too close to a man, or a little “harmless” dissembling is using my sexuality to deliberately manipulate a man at work in order to achieve a professional goal. This is so foreign to me that my reaction is a physical stiffening of my arms, pushing away that which I find to be anathema.

Using sexuality would be a declaration that I have no ability to get power from this man regardless of what I do, therefore I’m going to yield to his superior position; the she-wolf baring her belly, breasts, and neck to the alpha male. You say it’s just a harmless wink, a little cleavage — what’s the harm? I say the harm is that I achieved the power based on something other than my ability, and at the cost of always being the she-wolf with neck bared.

Am I too serious? Too rigid and foolish? Out of step with modern times? Most likely all of the above. And don’t forget inflexible and unyielding, too. Tempermental. And tall.

Honor. Honor and gender. Honor and vocation. Honor to one’s country. Honor to one’s friends. Honor and truth. I have a feeling that ‘honor’ is something that will be lost and found and then lost again in the next few years. Particularly when we consider that sometimes honor, and the lack thereof, is based as much on silence and inaction, as it is on voice and action.

I’ve been told I take all this too seriously. Sometimes I do. I really do.