Misandry’s a Game but Maybe that’s a Good Thing

by dhaaruni

So, I basically ate this book the first time I read it and since the movie is coming out soon,  I reread it, going more slowly and collecting quotes as I went along it. But I wanted to talk about the book because I actually consider it rather iconic since in this post feminist world we live in because women are equal to men right? We can vote, and wear pants, and even keep our last names! And well. Amy Elliott Dunne, what a dame.

The thing about Amy is that nothing will ever be enough for her. She wants everything in the world and she was told that she could have it because she had parents who loved her, she had beauty and charm and brilliance to spare, but it wasn’t enough. She could do whatever the hell she wanted right? But she couldn’t. The thing about existence as a woman so to speak is that either you obey the rules set forward by society, wear the right clothes, say the right things, date the right men, be whatever people want you to be and avoid trouble and the disconcert of other people or if you can’t do those things or you don’t want to, you’d better expect the consequences. You can’t do whatever you want and demand the consequences don’t apply to you which is almost what Amy tried to do.

One of my favorite Amy lines aside from the whole huge rant on the Cool Girl is from her last chapter “I was told love should be unconditional. That’s the rule, everyone says so. But if love has no boundaries, no limits, no conditions, why should anyone try to do the right thing ever? If I know I am loved no matter what, where is the challenge?” As human beings, I think we need that prodding, that motivation to be better people. For the longest time, this came from organized religion, the whole if you don’t do the right thing, God will smite you and you’ll be stuck in hell with all the other sinners. But in the modern era, it’s almost a taboo to be religious or rather to believe in the unknown outside the confines of organized religion which is just really not conducive to freedom that we so covet. It’s not “rational” and “practical” but so many young women are stuck with this internal mantra of “I need a purpose I need a reason I need to be absolutely everything under the sun and even though I managed to achieve this because I’m so capable, I am still empty and I don’t know what can fill me up.”

Amy Dunne is looking for a purpose to life, she can’t find it, so she manipulates those who have somehow made her feel less than extraordinary into giving her that purpose. She hates the idea of anybody beating her of being better than her of somehow surpassing the ridiculous standards she set for herself. And her actions are horrible of course and not morally right at all; the Hilary Handy situation not to mention the framing Desi for murder and then murdering him, although the way Desi treated Amy made me sick to the stomach to be quite honest and maybe it says something I thought he almost had it coming.

But the whole “why are we here what is the purpose why am I not happy even though I should be?” is the question that Sylvia Plath posed in the 1950s and and is written off by many (white male) quasi intellectuals a la Woody Allen as a crazy sad girl with serious daddy issues who wrote some pretty words and killed herself in the most gruesome way. (Conveniently ignoring the fact her husband Ted Hughes’ second wife died in the exact same way which is a coincidence that’s really eerie.) What is the purpose to existence? As woman why are we mandated to dance to the tune of men? Acquiesce to their requests with a smile, be their mothers and their wives and their whores and their sisters all in one and never get the respect that any of those identities should garner, let them think they’re men while treating them like the little boys they are never letting it slip the work we put into the carefully constructed identity of it all.

The Plath quote in full, which often the only last part is quoted because it’s a bit too radical for many modern male egos, is“Being born a woman is an awful tragedy. Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.” I don’t want to be a woman sometimes, or rather the sheer frustration with the amount of organized rules and regulations and isms I have to live under just makes me angry, and Amy really resonated with that aspect of my brain. I just want to be a person, not a woman with the rules of a woman where my body is free to be judged my whole life and my mind is supposed to be just as constructed but I’m trapped in that body.

It’s a coffin almost that we’ve been buried alive in but the Amy Dunnes and the Cersei Lannisters and the women who want more take the gamble to do it and sometimes they succeed but is it really worth it? The tragedy of it all is that they generally still lose because the society isn’t conducive to that sort of wanting in a woman while in most men it’s excused because “that’s how men ought to be all ambitious and go-getting.” I said today that men want strong independent women as a token on the checklist to the “suitable partner” as long as they aren’t strong and independent towards them and just do exactly what they want them to do. But good god Amy Elliott Dunne. Rosamunde Pike will kill it and Ben Affleck is Nick Dunne to the point he has a face I want to slap. I was in the minority who really loved the ending as it is and I hope Gillian Flynn doesn’t change its vibe to much though I get some of the logistics could stand to be altered.