Monday News: Ageism and gendered rage, beauty and the male gaze, social media’s danger to women, and the feminization of domestic fiction
I had known for years, of course, that beyond a certain age women become invisible in public spaces. The famous erotic gaze is withdrawn. You are no longer, in the eyes of the world, a sexual being. In my experience, though, this forlornness is a passing phase. The sadness of the loss fades and fades. You pass through loneliness and out into a balmy freedom from the heavy labour of self-presentation. Oh, the relief! You have nothing to prove. You can saunter about the world in overalls. Because a lifetime as a woman has taught you to listen, you know how to strike up long, meaty conversations with strangers on trams and trains.
But there is a downside, which, from my convalescent sofa, I dwelt upon with growing irritation. Hard-chargers in a hurry begin to patronise you. Your face is lined and your hair is grey, so they think you are weak, deaf, helpless, ignorant and stupid. When they address you they tilt their heads and bare their teeth and adopt a tuneful intonation. It is assumed that you have no opinions and no standards of behaviour, that nothing that happens in your vicinity is any of your business. By the time I had got bored with resting and returned to ordinary life, I found that the shield of feminine passivity I had been holding up against this routine peppering of affronts had splintered into shards. –The Monthly
What the photographer saw was a girl who could care less about being “classically beautiful”. Or trying to be overly sexy. Or trying to impress anybody. Or trying to be anything that’s beautiful according to a man’s definition. Just because I didn’t place my hands on my hips and serve Marilyn Monroe pouty lips doesn’t mean I don’t know how beautiful I am. Just because I’m awkward doesn’t mean it isn’t something I embrace. Just because I wore a super loose jumpsuit instead of a flirty floral print dress and Mrs. Cleaver pearls doesn’t mean I’m not in touch with myself as a woman. It simply means I don’t express beauty or sexuality or self-love according to anyone else’s standards. It means I do me and let the chips fall where they may. I am a human being, not an ornament of yours that needs dusting off. Being a woman and being beautiful and knowing it aren’t always tied to mainstream standards and representations. . . .
So… to the men who are misogynists and don’t know it: Women don’t owe you our beauty. You don’t get to decide which women know, love, and value themselves. I know the world has told you that you own women’s bodies and thus, can police them anyway you want… But you can-freaking-NOT. You don’t get to decide how we dress, flaunt, cover, display, and enjoy them. You don’t get to decide if I smile or flatter your silly advances when I walk down the street minding my own damn business. You just don’t get to decide. –For Harriet
Social Media has a hugely flawed view of the world. They’re so male-oriented that they have absolutely no ability to grok that women have a fundamentally different experience of social media, and the world, than men. And yes, the same is true for many many other classifications (Color, ethnicity, non-cis, not heterosexual and so on.) It’s why we see policies that actively endanger women and a big old “Huh?” when women complain. Real Name policies endanger women. Until these companies understand WHY that is, it’s not possible for the policy to be crafted in a way that reduces the danger. There’s a flip side to everything. Not having Real Names can also endanger women. Understand what’s going on, and there’s a chance you might have a more effective policy instead of one that serves the few with real harm to many.–Carolyn Jewel
In the United States, however, the male myths of proud autonomy and self-reliance have made for a hypermasculine intellectual and literary culture. Its custodians have ranged from Hemingway, the war reporter and boxer manqué, to today’s TV anchors lying about their proximity to war. Its insidious prejudices make men seem naturally equipped to tackle complex ideas, chart tectonic geopolitical shifts, summarize the diverse American condition and erect literary skyscrapers like the Great American Novel. Regional, racial and ethnic labels have obscured the reputations of, among others, Carson McCullers, Zora Neale Hurston and Maxine Hong Kingston. Paula Fox and Mary McCarthy, shrewd observers of the liberal imagination’s insincerities, must suffer oblivion in between occasional revivals. At the same time, cultural authority has been endowed on those who document the men in full (Tom Wolfe) as well as warn against the American will’s enslavement by technology (Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo). Novels about suburban families are more likely to be greeted as microcosmic explorations of the human condition if they are by male writers; their female counterparts are rarely allowed to transcend the category of domestic fiction.–New York Times