Now that’s how to say it. Rebecca Traister at the New Republic on that much-discussed much-disliked (for good reason) about that Esquire piece saying, with immense generosity, that not all 42-year-old women cause projectile vomiting on sight.
I thought the article was a piece of sexist tripe, celebrating a handful of Pilates-toned, famous, white-plus-Maya-Rudolph women as having improved on the apparently dismal aesthetics of previous generations; my primary objections to the piece have been ably laid out by other critics. Chait tweeted that he viewed the piece as a “mostly laudable” sign of progress: a critique not of earlier iterations of 42-year-old womanhood, but rather of the old sexist beauty standards that did not celebrate those women; he saw it as an acknowledgment of maturing male attitudes toward women’s value.
Oh, goody; being told that not all 42-year-old women cause projectile vomiting on sight is such a huge gift to women; thank you for the favors. Traister is happy that she doesn’t feel any obligation to feel grateful for that kind of favor.
Instead, I’ve been thinking about an anecdote in Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Amy Poehler, then new to “Saturday Night Live,” was engaging in some loud and unladylike vulgarity in the writers’ room when the show’s then-star Jimmy Fallon jokingly told her to cut it out, saying, “It’s not cute! I don’t like it!” In Fey’s retelling, Poehler “went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him,” forcefully informing him: “I don’t fucking care if you like it.”
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. Just this week, the journalist Megan Carpentier wrote a piece about the evolving public appraisals of Hillary Clinton’s facial expressions that concluded with her suggestion that we get over the idea of 2014 being “the year of the strong female politician” and aim instead for “the year of the strong female politician who doesn’t give a fuck if you think she’s pretty.”
Because believe it or not there are other things women are interested in. Strange but true.
I suspect that a lot of this irritation over the small stuff right now is directly related to the fact that we’re mired in a moment at which lots and lots of women are not good*, for reasons far graver than anything having to do with Esquire, Jimmy Fallon, John Legend, or Hillary Clinton’s Bitchy Resting Face.
*not “good” meaning not “fine thanks without kind offers of tiny havors”
Jada’s story recalls too many otherrecentheadlines, but happens to have come out at the same time as last weekend’s lengthy New York Timesinvestigation of Hobart & William Smith’s handling of charges that football players sexually assaulted a freshman girl. The Times story was about a lot of things—differences between campus and police investigations, a heightened public awareness about the frequency of coerced or violent sexual encounters on college campuses. But at its heart, it was a story about how women are assessed: by disciplinary committees, police departments, their friends, the public, and by the people they identify as their assailants. It was about how female availability and consent and intoxication are appraised based on how women look, dance, dress, and act, even when those appraisals are at odds with medical evidence, eyewitness accounts, inconsistent stories from accused parties, and certainly with the woman’s own interpretation of her experience or intentions.
This comfort with group assessment of femininity in turn reminds me of the ease with which women’s choices regarding their bodies, futures, health, sex, and family life are up for public evaluation. Women are labeled as good or bad, as moral or immoral, by major religions and “closely held corporations,” whose rights to allow those estimations to dictate their corporate obligations are upheld over the rights of the women themselves by high courts.
It has lately been made perfectly clear, for example, that while in many places women should not be allowed—and increasingly are not allowed—to run their own independent calculations about whether or not to get abortions, other people, unspecified people standing outside clinics, should be allowed—are now allowed—to get in those women’s faces and publicly render their judgments and voice their opinions about those women and their circumstances.
One way to put it is that women are treated as public property in a way that men are not.
I wish it were different. I wish that every woman whose actions and worth are parsed and restricted, congratulated and condemned in this country might just once get to wheel around—on the committee that doesn’t believe their medically corroborated story of assault, or on the protesters who tell them that termination is a sin they will regret, or on the boss who tells them he doesn’t believe in their sexual choices, or on the mid-fifties man who congratulates them, or himself, on finding them appealing deep into their dotage—and go black in the eyes and say, “I don’t fucking care if you like it.”
Which leads nicely into a guest post by Josh.
(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)