The other night, I watched the popular movie, Eat, Pray, Love. It was lovely to travel
vicariously through Italy, India, and Indonesia. I was strongly attached to the
main character because of her love of travel and writing. But, at the end, I
felt some discomfort because I had gotten drawn in to the beauty of her journey
without using my reason to analyze her decisions. It was not to my
We all must account for our own lives. There are probably
countless details which makes me unable to judge the choices that Elizabeth
Gilbert made. But I feel we must judge the culture that applauds so readily a
woman leaving her husband to “find herself.” The movie garnered rave reviews
from my sex. Women friends and family championed the movie, alluding to and
quoting from it.
It is touted as a feministic movie – a woman liberating herself from her marriage to find self-fulfillment and eventually, love. Elizabeth Gilbert is called courageous for her willingness to risk so much to launch on a soul-searching journey. But leaving a marriage and breaking one’s vows is a serious offense. If her husband were controlling or abusive, manipulative or dysfunctional, I could understand it better. Yet, he was portrayed as loving her. Her husband’s only crime was that he had sunk in her esteem – perhaps because of his inability to find a successful career.
The double standard looms large. Imagine this book or movie synopsis: a middle-aged man, unhappy in his marriage because of his wife’s increasing weight, decides to leave on a year-long journey to find himself in Italy, India, and Indonesia. He enjoys roaming through Italy, delighting in culinary pleasure. Suffering from guilt for leaving his wife, he finds the ability to forgive himself in India. Finally, he gathers the courage to love again in Indonesia, falling in love with an exotic Brazilian.
That puts it in a different light, doesn’t it? Yet, all I’ve switched is the gender – and a typical, shallow reason for men leaving. Such a memoir would not even be published. The guy is a selfish prick and deserves to be roundly denounced for his desertion of his wife and subsequent escaping of his responsibilities.
Feminism has a long way to go. If we insist on claiming equality,we must expect the same quality of character from both sexes, refusing to villify the one while praising the other, or calling the same act selfish (if it is a man) and courageous (if it is a woman).