Thursday, August 14, 2014

Article Reading Group: The Struggles of Ladydom

I had ambitions to write a grand, overarching narrative for these links or, at least, a piece of semi-coherent, interconnected prose à la my last Article Reading Group post. Buuuuut… I haven't got round to it and if I don't post them now I'm going to forget everything about them.

I was gonna be all ‘I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR’ or rather ‘I AM A WOMAN AND THAT IS EXHAUSTING AND SHITTY A LOT OF THE TIME IN OUR SOCIETIES BUT I’M TRYING TO POWER THROUGH’. Less catchy though, I’ll grant you. These links capture just some of the many and varied ways in which ladyhood can be crappy. Some of these seem (are) more obvious and horrendous than others but they are all contributing factors. Ultimately/ideally we need to fight domestic abuse and the crippled self-esteem of teen girls and unfair pay and restrictions on abortion access and the exploitation of women’s bodies from the sex trade to pop culture and the lack of women in positions of power and and and ad nauseam. None of these problems invalidate each other. The patriarchy must be crushed on all fronts, yo.

Miss American Dream - Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Case in point. This is an extended piece about Britney Spears in Vegas. It’s amazing. It is about both Mz. Spears, herself, her strange life and our obsession with it, and the weird world of long haul Las Vegas shows. Celine! Shania! Bizarre. It is pure pop culture and it’s fascinating. But it’s also about Britney the single mum with alimony cheques to pay and children to fly home to. About the physical demands of a big show and our expectations of women’s bodies. About how we have all fixated upon and judged this woman’s decisions for the last fifteen years and how absolute the scrutiny of women in the public eye can be.

I Don't Care If You Like It - Rebecca Traister. This blew up on the interwebz a couple of weeks ago but I think the original rebuttal is still worth reading. If you missed it, some moron at Esquire (srsly, Esquire, you are all over the place – amazing link coming later. Get your shit together) wrote a piece celebrating how a glorious new age has dawned in which women in their 40s can be attractive and that he’d totally fuck some of them, you know, the hot ones. *Take a time out here to slam your head against the nearest hard surface until you pass out* Obviously this is super dumb and doesn’t even need a takedown but Traister expands the immediate ‘STFU, A-HAT’ response in important ways. She writes about how constantly women are judged - their appearance, their behaviour, their lives - and details a tasteful selection of examples. The endless conversations about Hillary Clinton's appearance, the media and the authority's responses to date rape and assault on campus, the American crackdown on the availability of contraception. She argues that the "very barometer by which female worth is measured—from the superficial to the life-altering, the appreciative to the punitive—has long been calibrated to “dude,” whether or not those measurements are actually being taken by dudes. Men still run, or at bare minimum have shaped and codified the attitudes of, the churches, the courts, the universities, the police departments, the corporations that so freely determine women’s worth."

Prey - Kathleen Hale. This Hazlitt essay was published whole sale in the Guardian weekend mag a few weeks ago so some people might have caught it there. It’s beautifully written if, unsurprisingly, grim. Hale was raped on her first day of college and in the aftermath of the assault became obsessed with dangerous animals. It says awful things about our world that I initially put off reading this because I couldn’t face ‘another rape story’ but I would recommend powering through if you feel a similar depressed twisting in your stomach. Hale is philosophical and discursive and the American legal system + the minds attempts to protect itself are very interesting. Obv trigger warnings abound.

Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain - Leslie Jamison. This is an amazing, slightly bonkers, looong essay. It is quite academic but also aggressively personal. Speaking of trigger warnings – anorexia and cutting off the top of my head. Jamison sprawls magnificently through female pain in art and literature and her own experiences. She differentiates between pain, hurt, suffering and trauma. She tries to reconcile the way in which female pain has been fetishized, manipulated, turned into a motif and a cliché, and the simultaneous truth of that pain – if she can find a truthful way to express her own, real pain. She talks about The Glass Essay, which I love, and is very interesting about Plath, who I liked as a teenager but struggle with today. It’s all very smart and intense and thought provoking.

The Abortion Ministry of Dr Willie Parker – John H. Richardson. See, Esquire? You can do great gender friendly journalism. I mean, it’s a pity that at my time of reading the header for this excellent article included large colour links to ‘Chrissy Teigen Does a Little Yard Work (and Goes for a Swim)’ *sigh* but let’s focus on the positives. Dr Willie Parker is a full time, travelling abortionist who, among other clinics, works at the Pink House, the last abortion provider in Mississippi. The state is trying to close the clinic and it faces daily harassment from pro-choice protesters. He puts his life in danger to help women exert control over their bodies. He has dedicated himself to reproductive rights and his commitment and stories, questions and concerns of the women he helps made me feel pretty weepy. I do not understand America. The profile is totally supportive of Parker and, I felt, non-critical of the women involved. It details the legal development and is very open about the abortion process. Excellent. Read it.

Man, those are such great articles… High fives all round.

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