Good day, fair readers. A bittersweet day, alas.
The good news is, my review of Jeff Eugenides‘ The Marriage Plot is up on Hipster Book Club. Anyway, you should read that book, and then we should argue about it. It was a strange read for me, as I experienced two very different higher-learning literature departments–an undergrad program very much connected to tradition, the classics and old school interpretation, and a grad school committed to a strong knowledge of semiotics and deconstruction (personally, the deconstructionist arguments, while engaging thought experiments, felt more out of date than the classic lit. crit. thinkers of old, but msnowe digresses). Eugenides’ book is absolutely wonderful reading, and at the end, reader, I blush to admit to you that I got emotional, which is almost never the case. All that said, you should read it so we can talk/fight about it, because as much as I was engaged, I don’t feel like Madeleine (the main female character among two main male characters) got a fair femilady treatment. Let’s just say the book fails the Bechdel test. But damn, it was a good book. But, damn!
In other, sad news, Hipster Book Club is shuttering its online doors after this month. This is very sad, indeed, especially for me, as I was just getting comfortable with the reading and reviewing and working with the wonderful editors. Do yourself a favor and check out the review archives on the site.
On to bigger and hopefully better things!
[Dana, possessed by “The Gatekeeper,” answers the door]
Dana Barrett: Are you the Keymaster?
Dr. Peter Venkman: Not that I know of.
[She slams the door in his face. Venkman knocks again]
Dana Barrett: Are you the Keymaster?
Dr. Peter Venkman: Yes. Actually I’m a friend of his, he asked me to meet him here.
“‘Good Evening, Sir, I am your Bunny, Marie. May I see the member’s key, please? Are you the keyholder or is this a borrowed key? Thank you. Now I’ll be happy to take your order.’ No deviation allowed. I wondered if the uniformity ever bored the customers. ‘Is there anything else I can get you, Mr. Jones?’ ‘Thank you, Mr. Jones, come back and see us again.’ I was being programmed.”
–Gloria Steinem,”I Was a Playboy Bunny,” 1963
M.Snowe has a quiz for you all! You should definitely check out Ryan Lizza’s New Yorker piece on Michele Bachmann. The journalism is great, the conclusions are scary. If you were in any doubt about how insane some of her views are, please go read the piece to solidify your opinion. Also, Slate’s Double X Gabfest had some fun discussion about it and the Newsweek cover on their weekly podcast.
Lizza’s piece highlights a lot of the published works that either helped solidify Bachmann’s own political ideology, or works that she holds up as examples of said ideology (during speeches or on her campaign websites).
Below are a list of book titles or articles that Bachmann espouses mixed in with ones I made up. Obviously, a good quick google will give you the answers, but let’s be honest, that isn’t really what this is about, is it?
DID SHE READ IT?
1. –The Homosexual Revolution: End Time Abomination
2. –Taxes and Tea: Drowning in Liberal Swill
3. –Public School, Pubic Hair: How Mandatory Sex Ed. Destroys Childhood
4. –Atheism, Socialism, Legal Marijuana and The Beach Boys
5. –Communism, Hypnotism and The Beatles
6. –Biography of Robert E. Lee by J. Steven Wilkins
7. –Broadway and Glee: Counter-Culture Jihadis
8. –Christianity and the Constitution, by John Eidsmoe
9. –Dominionism: A Practical Guide (Though Technically You Won’t Need That as a God-Appointed Ruler of Earth)
10 –Everybody Poops…But Ronald Reagan
Real Bachmann-endorsed books: #’s 1, 5, 6, & 8
Fake stuff Bachmann would almost certainly endorse anyway: # 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10
Notes on the less-interesting/provocative-sounding titles:
In the Wilkins book, he claims “most southerners strove to treat their slaves with respect and provide them with a sufficiency of goods for a comfortable, though–by modern standards–spare existence.”
In the Eidsmoe book, the text claims that the founders (John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams) “expressed their abhorrence for the institution of slavery,” as “many Christians did,” but they didn’t free their slaves because of their inherent “Christian benevolence.” He goes on to explain it would’ve been hard economically and socially for the slaves to be free at that time, so freeing them would’ve been “inhumane and irresponsible.”
Written by Ashley Montagu. “Ashley” like the Gone with the Wind character “Ashley” (i.e. male). A man says women are better, so it must be true!
This book was courteously brought to my attention by my friend Dan, who likes to assume the air of a juicebox, but is actually quite a funny dude (here’s the proof).
M.Snowe thinks the best way to handle this is to play some paperback roulette. Get ready for weekly pearls of wisdom.
Don’t you too want to know some of the insights this book revealed, the ones that “stirred a controversial storm of both praise and condemnation from aroused readers?”
Wouldn’t you also like to be aroused?
Wouldn’t you like to know if “only men suffer from webbing of the second and third toes, bark-like skin and hairy growth on the ears”? (The hairy growth deadens the senses)
This is the kind of hard-hitting sexual politics our generation lacks.
“Why is it there have been no great musicians among women, no great logicians, philosophers, and poets? Why so few musical instruments of the first rank, painters, scientists, inventors, and technologists? Have not women, from the earliest times or, at least, during the last few hundred years received an education in music, in painting, and been employed in kitchens to which they have not, by their own invention, contributed (so it is usually said) a single gadget?
You know, that’s a good question. Why hasn’t a single woman throughout the recorded history of the world created a single thing? Aside from huge credit card bills? My money (at least, the money that I didn’t spend on my appearance) is on menstruation. The blood in the uterus is the most creative (as it was supposed to “make” a baby) and it’s lost every month. That’s why M.Snowe is going to an invent a menstrual blood dialysis machine. Watch out, creative world. Here come the women. We’ll be juiced on baby batter blood and as creative as all get out.
Next time–let’s consider to Rousseauian implications of whether or not horrible women drivers are actually a phenomenon.
–A canopied elephant ride through the forests of India
–A large foie gras poached in butter and hyena truffle oil
–An Ivy-League education, including room, board and apprenticeship with Larry Summers
–The secret antidote to all hangovers, forever
–Your curmudgeonly father’s undying approval of all your death metal tattoos
–A monogrammed four-in-hand carriage that takes you to any time or place you desire as long as that time and place includes fairies
–Brunch prepared and served every Sunday by the entire original cast of Beauty and the Beast, on Ice
*This is the only one listed above that is currently available for purchase via paypal.
Lady-related links. Yay!
–Those two cops? “Not Guilty.” M.Snowe didn’t attend the trial or follow it too closely, but it seems to me that when a guy admits to “wearing a condom,” it might be because he was having sex. Just sayin’. Even if there wasn’t enough evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt–there’s also a classic case of the too-often-invoked blaming the victim here. M.Snowe will be out of town–but if you’re in the mood to protest…
–Remember when you could be Marilyn Monroe, not have a size negative-twenty body and still be sooo sexxxy on the beach? Yeah, me neither. While I appreciate the NYTimes’ hard-hitting analysis of common knowledge here, they don’t do much to encourage a change. Also, have you SEEN this? (I like to think that the horrible job market is the only reason this many women would stoop to be in this commercial. Of course, I am wrong about that.)
–HelloGiggles? More like Hello Projectile Vomiting! Seriously? VOMIT. (Disclaimer: you should believe that this website has every right to exist, but please join me in abhorring/opposing the notion that it defines itself as “the ultimate entertainment destination for smart, independent and creative females. Everything hosted on the site will be lady-friendly.”)
–Lactating Men. “Nuf said.
–Run for the hills! (Preferably the ones in liberal bastions like San Francisco!)
–Another sad fact about education.
–Slut shaming! But also, it’s just a great accent to listen to…
–M.Snowe doesn’t know how to feel about this. It’s great that the kid won’t be told not to “throw like a girl,” or that it’s “Mommy’s little princess,” but couldn’t the child still grow up to be healthy and have his/her parents create an environment relatively free of gender stereotypes without concealing the sex?
–“Abandoning the pro-choice movement’s 50-state strategy has a pragmatic charm to it on the surface. But the potential for collateral damage should put even the most practical pro-choicers off this strategy. Even the best-case scenario, where women are able to travel great distances to obtain abortions, there is an unacceptably high and unnecessary cost, and often for women who were already struggling to pay for the basic necessities. Throwing the most vulnerable women in our society overboard should not be considered a workable compromise.”
From A Game of Thrones:
” When the wars were over at last, and Catelyn rode to Winterfell, Jon and his wet nurse had already taken up residence. That cut deep. Ned would not speak of the mother, not so much as a word, but a castle has no secrets, and Catelyn heard her maids repeating tales they heard from the lips of her husband’s soldiers.”
(From page 55, that M.Snowe read on the subway this morning.)
From a The New York Times story M.Snowe read later this morning:
“LOS ANGELES — Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered an out-of-wedlock child nearly a decade ago with a member of his household staff, leading Maria Shriver, his wife, to move out after he told her earlier this year, according to people close to the family… he informed Ms. Shriver of the affair after he finished his term in office in January. The baby was born before Mr. Schwarzenegger was elected in a special election in 2003…’After leaving the Governor’s office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago,’ he said in a statement.”
–One quote is part of a vaguely medieval tale about a regional leader consorting with an unknown chick during his wartime rule and producing a bastard. The other is a fictional storyline in A Game of Thrones.
M.Snowe read three New Yorker pieces from the latest issue last night, all in the section titled “Innovators.” The pieces were by Malcolm “breast-feeding babies and training NFL players are kind of the same” Gladwell, John Seabrook, and Anthony Lane. Their topics were Xerox, Steve Jobs & Apple, Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, and Pixar.
While M.Snowe was glad to see a lady on the list, after reading all the pieces and reflecting, she saw through the lady-coverage and realized it was the journalistic equivalent of college roster-padding in order to meet Title IX requirements. And not only that, but it carried with it the many stereotypes that follow women in business (stereotypes that don’t seem to affect men in the least). Also, let’s point out that all three writers of the pieces are men. Ish.
Let’s start on the surface, with appearances of the CEOs/Innovators.
“She was dressed in stylish business clothes–black patent-leather heels, a knee-length, copper-colored dress, and a short-waisted black jacket–and looked more like a media executive than a food-industry chieftain.”
Ohhh, Scary! It’s CEO Barbie! Dammit, if only she had worn that tribal dress, she would’ve looked more like a chieftain….or at least a chieftain’s wife!
Let’s check out what John Lasseter, our friendly every-man (despite his world-class animation and creative skills and business acumen) is wearing over in the Lane’s article:
“A hefty fellow of fifty-four–with a face as round and frank as a full moon, set off by scholarly spectacles–he wore a short-sleeved shirt, covered in drawings of little cars, and sucked Jamba Juice through a straw.”
And hey, check out his lil’ buddy:
“Michael Giacchino, who wrote the music for three earlier Pixar movies, stood beside him at the mixing board, in a plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers. Giacchino’s children stopped by; Lasseter turned to the youngest, bent down, and exchanged a high-five.”
Okay. So clearly, the male innovators get points for being down-to-earth, casual and unassuming. Of course, that is the way their business is run. Nooyi, on the other hand, gets ripped to shreds for her put-together, business-y attire. But you can be sure that if Nooyi was high-fiving her kids at the office and wearing a shirt with cartoons on them, the way that would be portrayed in the New Yorker would make her seem disheveled, unprofessional, and not worthy of the job at hand. She works at a corporate place and needs to conduct herself as such.
Alright, let’s move on to experience levels:
“Nooyi has never run one of PepsiCo’s divisions, and she hasn’t managed any of its brands. She isn’t a sales person, like many of her predecessors.”
Compared to the Pixar people:
“Docter said, ‘The entire office was green,’ adding, ‘Less than half had even used computers before.” (But the article then goes on to show how they labored and intricately detailed everything in their work, and learned the necessary technology through toil, ingenuity and sweat.)
On a woman, lack of experience inside the company is just plain bad. But for the innovators at Pixar and Apple, their lack of industry knowledge, or their absolute opposition and rejection of it, becomes a valuable asset.
Seabrook quotes Nooyi, and then he has a tendency to pepper the descriptions of their newer business ideas with buzz words, which we are led to believe are straight from Nooyi, but in quotation marks. It is so clear Seabrook is really using “air quotes.” Those air quotes are in the style of an Olive Garden claiming they sell “Real Italian Food.” The disingenuousness of his quoting is palpable.
“Nooyi has a tendency to lift words from their natural context and repurpose them to suit the needs of PepsiCo.”
Both Lasseter and Jobs (Jobs is mentioned in both other articles on innovation, unsurprisingly) are people who were told “No, we can’t do that–that’s not the way it’s done,” when they came up with new, stellar innovations. They created their own buzz words. They are then rewarded for their toils and for breaking the mold–in success, in money, and in the acclaim given by their New Yorker profile writers. Nooyi gets no such love.
Seabrook does admit that “as a long-term business strategy, Nooyi’s plan makes sense,” and then he goes on to talk about the different types of salt and sugar substitutes they are using and the truly innovative gizmos to test out what tastes good and is more healthy across the country and the world.
At one point, Nooyi and Seabrook conduct an informal taste test to see if they can tell which new Pepsi cola product actually has 60 percent less sugar than the other, regular colas. Both of them cannot decipher which of three samples is the sugar-reduced cola. Then Seabrook adds: “But I suspected that she may have lost on purpose, in order to let the product win.”
Seriously, Seabrook? You have the creative control to shape Nooyi’s image to your reading public. And when you add something like that, which casts doubt on her reliability, you are disparaging her character. This is the woman who wants to make products such as enhanced oatmeal, yogurt, and drinkable gazpacho. Yeah, she’s evil.
Now, the clear delineation here is that the companies are all very different, and those dictate the kind of treatment that each one receives. Obviously, PepsiCo deserves a different treatment than Pixar, which deserves something different from Apple and Xerox. But, Pepsi is a large business, and they innovate in different ways than a tech company would. Nooyi hired a cabinet member from the World Health Organization–a man whose main drive was to make the WHO recommend that people limit their daily sugar and salt intake. When the WHO and the United Nations refused to produce the guidelines, Nooyi brought the member on her team, and they started cutting salts and sugars from Pepsi products anyway. But with the way that Seabrook wrote it about it, you might’ve gotten the impression that Nooyi was secretly trying to sneak in trans fats or something (which she wasn’t).
Gladwell, in his piece about innovation, Xerox and Apple, tells a tale more focused on the idea of what innovation is and how you manage it than on the people themselves. But he only uses men as examples…exclusively.
It’s pretty clear that women aren’t really innovators. If you’re reading the New Yorker, that is.
In his article, Lane mentions “Elastigirl,” from The Incredibles, and says, “She is also the single-handed rebuke to the charge–proved elsewhere–that Pixar has failed to place female heroes at the hub of its stories.” Luckily, Pixar’s next big foray into an animated feature film will have a lead female character. But Lane, like so many, cannot seem to escape the male necessity to sexualize, and belittle: “There is, of course, another skill that she [Elastigirl] could master with her natural sinuosity, but that is never mentioned. Back in 2004, some of us in the movie theatre wanted to shout, “Bob, she’s wearing a black mask and thigh-highs. What are you waiting for, man?”
And, scene. Hey Seabrook, what are you waiting for, man?
Why does Elastigirl’s outfit description slightly remind me of Nooyi’s?
M.Snowe doesn’t know where to go! Typical lady, can’t follow directions.
Lately, M.Snowe has grown tired and felt particularly uninspired when just writing down or ranting about injustices, especially with regard to women and minorities. It’s nice to think that it might clarify and foment the writer’s own ideology, but does it really do anything else? The femiladies of the past all hooted and hollered and it got them places–mostly because those places were so obviously within what they were entitled to as members of the human race. (“Oh, you want to vote? Oh, you want to play sports?! Yeah, I guess it would be unconstitutional to bar you from that.”) But today, the issues *appear* more nuanced. Of course, M.Snowe would argue that some of the very same issues are at play (unfair wages, old boys clubs, fetishization of the female form, ageism, etc., and so on). What some view as nuanced (should we fund abortion or Planned Parenthood?) M.Snowe views as a pretty straight-forward attack on the freedom of women, freedom that is being challenged in the home, in the workplace, and in the doctor’s office. Only beginning in 2014 will it be illegal for all women to be defined as having a “pre-existing condition” under medical insurance. If we’re still living in the past, 2014 is certainly far away.
But, as M.Snowe suggests, the opposition to women’s rights has added artificial nuances to what should be incredibly straightforward debates. It’s the political equivalent of the G spot debate: “OMG, does a woman have one? Where is it? Should I be able to make her come somehow? Maybe she should get on top? Should we introduce toys? Wait, I might have to do that? Oh forget it, she can just find it herself later, if it even exists.” If a man can be funded to have the ability to spill his old funky seed all over the place (Hello HMO funding/taxes going towards Viagra!), a woman should be able to have the funding to reject that nasty spunk and the mistake it would be to carry its fertilizing result to term. This is just the abortion/health care debate, but you could expand it to practically anything else having to do with women–women writers, women in sports, etc.
But see, how much of that did you agree with? Because of the anti-women’s rights folks, some people will come up with weird, intricate arguments to counteract my claims. Reverse discrimination! Studies that show something neurological that hasn’t actually been proven! Okay. So we need to volley back.
People like Tina Fey are leading the parry to that thrust. Exhibit one. Essentially, what Fey (and the writers at SNL) are doing is: Taking it back to a primitive level, calling out basic and classically sexist ideas, and making everyone incapable of arguing with the blatant sexism while simultaneously indulging in it.
In a sense, Fey is breaking down the nuances by reverting back to the initial issues that no one can possibly be allowed to argue or excuse anymore (“Oh, don’t mind Norman, he just gets off on objectifying women, haha!”). No one can discount a woman’s writing because of her appearance–any reviewer or fellow writer who did that in all seriousness would be out of a job and a reputation. But, a more nuanced discrimination is afoot. Any quick glance at the book review sections in the NYRB or the NYTimes or the New Yorker (or other cities’ literary pursuits, mired as they may be) will tell you something is creating a disparity between men and women. While most people doubt that it is how “pretty” a female writer is, there is something fundamental and prejudiced about the lack of female voices.
But here’s the big question: When we point to primitive unfairness and injustice, and they are funny and ridiculous and universally laughed at, does it lead to enlightenment? Or are we just laughing at our condition?
M.Snowe has some friends, almost entirely male, who take shots at her ardent feminist bent (and M.Snowe sometimes participates, because it’s funny). The jokes range from “get back into the kitchen,” to “your brain is a third the size of mine, it’s science.” These are funny because neither the teller nor the receiver believes in any of the jokes. They are funny because they are inconceivable and wildly in error. But they are also, to some extent, part of the prevailing mood–at least in the abstract.
M.Snowe enjoys these jokes–and being a Funny Woman is important, if nothing more than proving Mr. Hitchens wrong. But M.Snowe can’t seem to escape the notion that as much as these jokes reinforce the stereotypes to the point of counteracting them–do they really convince anyone to change? M.Snowe enjoys jokes of this ilk because she understands the struggles still to be had, and looks to them for relief and inspiration. But, at the same time, will people who somehow still encourage these stereotypes just enjoy the jokes on the surface, and look no further? If this kind of joke, or style of irony doesn’t work to change people’s views, what will?
“The reality is, I’m a dude and I understand the dude thing, so I lean men the way Spike Lee leans African-American,” says Apatow.
The lovely snippet above was taken from this week’s New Yorker piece by Tad Friend on Anna Faris (but mostly the piece was on the state of female comedic actors in Hollywood, etc.).
M.snow red-penned a ton of the things in this article, but sadly, it wasn’t much of a revelation to read supporting material on how and why only 17% of the writers, producers, and directors in Hollywood are women, and their shortchanged presence in the biz is so palpable. M.Snowe has lately come to the realization that the only way to become a powerful voice for lady’s rights, one heard by both sexes and many races, is to use your talents and translate your voice through whatever those talents may be. Someone like Tina Fey isn’t a “feminist,” like Gloria Steinem is a feminist, but dammit she gets the job done by channeling her message through the very funny comedy writing she’s able to spit out like it’s nothing. So, it’s distressing to hear the overwhelming doom and gloom about Hollywood and see the barriers that exist, limiting the outreach that talented women in the industry could have and thereby change Hollywood from the inside and extend that change out into the greater culture.
So, back to the Apatow quote above. It is wrong, and ignorant. The comparison does not hold. Spike Lee grew up in a an area of Brooklyn populated predominately by African-Americans, and also knows what is feels like to be discriminated against because of his membership to that community. A friend of mine who lived in Bed Sty for a time, around where Lee grew up, recounts that there could be weeks that go by where she would not see a white person. There is a sense of isolation from the white community (either by choice, necessity, or urban gentrification/ghettoization), and also an atmosphere of being discriminated against by those in the white community. Can Apatow claim that his race (as a white, privileged male) was oppressed or discriminated against, or that he grew up in a place where he could go weeks without coming into contact with a person who was female?
In literature, great heroines who feel real and layered have existed for centuries. Some of them were written by male novelists. Great male characters have been written by women. It’s a two-way street. On that street, everyone rides around. And no, you don’t have to watch out for those crazy female drivers.
A prominent producer (unnamed) in the article has this to say about female roles in certain movies: “Both men and women can relate to Kevin James in ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop,’ who’s the little guy being shat upon…If that character is played by Tina Fey, it wouldn’t work, for the same reason that men can’t relate to Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones.’ Men just don’t understand the nuances of female dynamics.”
Why would it be that men couldn’t relate to Tina Fey getting shat upon? She does a pretty decent job of being shat upon in her role on 30 Rock, and people seem to understand that. It’s not that men “can’t relate,” it’s that a certain kind of man, and clearly the ones that make these Hollywood decisions included, won’t or refuse to relate. Because “being shat upon” is a problem that men identify as something they deal with frequently, it is not only a male problem–it is now universal, because white men are the gender and race equivalent of the O blood type–they are the universal donor–they expect you to have all the same problems as them, and expect you to understand their problems and triumphs, because these problems and triumphs are most universally known and explored and to some extent belong to everyone anyway. But, like the O blood type, men’s tiny antibodies absolutely reject or refuse to process any other combination of problems, even if they are so similar the leap of faith to understand them is more like a grade school hopscotch skip. It’s not the content of the “problems women face” or the “nuances,” it’s that they are traced back to the female bloodline, and thereby dubbed “the other,” “incompatible.” This isn’t actually how most men function, M.Snowe hopes–but it’s how our society, and especially Hollywood, treats them. So of course, the “nuanced” problems of a woman in a movie are too confusing for the men. Perhaps, it should be suggested that the nuances aren’t the barrier–the barrier is the fear that those nuances are actually commonalities.