Monday, March 03, 2008
I'm Every Woman - Every Stupid, Foolish Woman
As we all know, the Washington Post hasn't exactly been a bastion of quality lately. First of all, they've continued to hold on to Howard Kurtz, a diffident, equivocating media critic who sees no difference between gossip about Obama's flag pin and the Abu Ghraib leak and hearts Michelle Malkin. Second of all, Fred Hiatt, the paper's editorial page editor has abandoned any semblance of objectivity and come out swinging for the Bush Administration. Third of all, I'm sure we all remember when the paper tried to hire a conservative blogger to "balance" out their editorial department, never mind the fact that the newspaper had an equal number of conservative and liberal columnists and was making no plans to hire a liberal blogger. The paper's managed to showcase some outstanding pieces of reporting, but it's obvious that there's something a little bit off about the editorial board.
Still, I'm wondering which one of them was so addled in the brain case to allow this outdated piece of sexist garbage on the editorial page. In case you're unfamiliar with the author, Charlotte Allen writes for the Independent Women's Forum, one of those organizations that tries to hide the fact that it seeks to undermine feminism by having women talk about how they're all stupid and don't need equality. And in this article, Charlotte basically abandons any semblance of trying to hide her agenda and just goes right in for the sexism:
I can't help it, but reading about such episodes of screaming, gushing and swooning makes me wonder whether women -- I should say, "we women," of course -- aren't the weaker sex after all. Or even the stupid sex, our brains permanently occluded by random emotions, psychosomatic flailings and distraction by the superficial. Women "are only children of a larger growth," wrote the 18th-century Earl of Chesterfield. Could he have been right?
"Women are getting passionate about politics in a way I don't agree with. Could what some rich white dude from the 1700s said be right about us women not having two brain cells to rub together for warmth?"
I'm not the only woman who's dumbfounded (as it were) by our sex, or rather, as we prefer to put it, by other members of our sex besides us. It's a frequent topic of lunch, phone and water-cooler conversations; even some feminists can't believe that there's this thing called "The Oprah Winfrey Show" or that Celine Dion actually sells CDs.
"I know a woman, who knows a barber, who knows a postman, who knows some feminists who say they can't stand Oprah Winfrey!"
But, lest you think Charlotte's talking about how she has all the self-esteem of a wet piece of tissue paper, let's ask her what she thinks about her husband:
And obviously men do dumb things, too, although my husband has perfectly good explanations for why he eats standing up at the stove (when I'm not around) or pulls down all the blinds so the house looks like a cave (also when I'm not around): It has to do with the aggressive male nature and an instinctive fear of danger from other aggressive men. When men do dumb things, though, they tend to be catastrophically dumb, such as blowing the paycheck on booze or much, much worse (think "postal"). Women's foolishness is usually harmless. But it can be so . . . embarrassing.
So, you've got that right? Men, when they're foolish, are assertive and act physically. What do women do that's foolish?
What is it about us women? Why do we always fall for the hysterical, the superficial and the gooily sentimental? Take a look at the New York Times bestseller list. At the top of the paperback nonfiction chart and pitched to an exclusively female readership is Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love." Here's the book's autobiographical plot: Gilbert gets bored with her perfectly okay husband, so she has an affair behind his back. Then, when that doesn't pan out, she goes to Italy and gains 23 pounds forking pasta so she has to buy a whole new wardrobe, goes to India to meditate (that's the snooze part), and finally, at an Indonesian beach, finds fulfillment by -- get this -- picking up a Latin lover!
This is the kind of literature that countless women soak up like biscotti in a latte cup: food, clothes, sex, "relationships" and gummy, feel-good "spirituality." This female taste for first-person romantic nuttiness, spiced with a soup¿on of soft-core porn, has made for centuries of bestsellers -- including Samuel Richardson's 1740 novel "Pamela," in which a handsome young lord tries to seduce a virtuous serving maid for hundreds of pages and then proposes, as well as Erica Jong's 1973 "Fear of Flying."
So... men are strong, assertive, and acting out of an irrational yet still protective instinct while scared, but women "sop up" sentimentality and tenderness. According to Charlotte, women are stupid because they act the way the traditional gender constructs portray them to be. It's like unintentional feminist performance art.
But, just when you thought this work couldn't plumb the depths of self-parody any more than it already does, she says this:
I am perfectly willing to admit that I myself am a classic case of female mental deficiencies. I can't add 2 and 2 (well, I can, but then what?). I don't even know how many pairs of shoes I own. I have coasted through life and academia on the basis of an excellent memory and superior verbal skills, two areas where, researchers agree, women consistently outpace men. (An evolutionary just-so story explains this facility of ours: Back in hunter-gatherer days, men were the hunters and needed to calculate spear trajectories, while women were the gatherers and needed to remember where the berries were.) I don't mind recognizing and accepting that the women in history I admire most -- Sappho, Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth I, George Eliot, Margaret Thatcher -- were brilliant outliers.
Wow. I take back what I said about the self-esteem of a wet piece of tissue paper. A wet piece of tissue paper holds up a little more.
"I think I'm stupid, ergo, I think that most women out there are stupid"? Jesus fuck. I might as well write an editorial that says, "I'm socially awkward, so I think that most gay men are also socially awkward." Fred Hiatt will be knocking down my fucking door. But, hey, it's not like the paper decided to take the point of the editorial and run with it, right?
Oh, right. That would be the image the Post originally ran on the website to designate the piece, which was later changed after they noticed that there was a shitstorm a-brewin'.
Of course, now the Post is back-spinning and trying to pass it off as just a joke, claiming she wanted to make fun of the contents of the first paragraph -- women screaming at Obama rallies like Beatles fans. Now, I might buy that excuse if the people at the Post had taken a look at, oh, the rest of the piece and say, "Hell no." But, they decided to let a piece go to print where a writer called all women stupid, and told them to just lie back and embrace the soppy sentimentality that apparently defines the gender one hundred percent.
I think it's safe to say that this shit is inexcusable in this day and age. Women have gotten the vote, the right to choose, a permanent position in the workplace, and some degree of control over their own lives. A major metropolitan newspaper should not be hosting an editorial that treats them as emotionally-stunted Barbie dolls. At least, if it really wants those young mothers between the ages of 18 and 34, that is.