Politically incorrect? #meTđź‘€

This made me laugh. Maybe that marks me as a dinosaur slated for extinction, if not execution. It’s Claire Berlinski (22 years younger than me), saying what’s not supposed to be said. 

She’s writing (behind a subscriber paywall) about a man who was fired for murmuring “Not bad” to a male colleague while looking at a newspaper photograph of Megan Markle, and was overheard by a woman sitting 20 feet away who accused him of creating a hostile workplace environment. In his wrongful termination lawsuit, the man claimed he meant nothing more than that Markle was “beautiful and charming,.”

Berlinski’s comment:

“What is going on with American women? And men, for that matter? Have they seriously convinced themselves that there is such a thing as a normal man who looks at a beautiful and charming woman and fails to think, ‘Man, I’d like to bang her?’ How have they neglected to notice this most obvious of truths? 

“Ladies, I hate to break this to you, but that’s what men think when they look at a beautiful and charming woman. So what? Why is this his employer’s business? Why is it our business? How can we be, in 2020, so affronted by a fact of nature?

“It is certainly true that it is in poor taste to discuss one’s sexual yearnings in public, just as it is in poor taste to discuss one’s bowel movements. But ‘intimidating, hostile, and offensive’? Why would women suddenly find the longing we arouse in men, one of the great sources of our power over the poor beasts, to be intimidating, offensive, or hostile?

“You do realize that’s why they open our doors, build our homes, and rescue us from burning buildings, right?” 

OK, it’s a fine line. Many women have experienced, in the workplace or on the street, powerful or powerless men’s sense of entitlement to our bodies, their right to lay eyes or words on us as a proxy for the hands and more they’re implying they’d lay on us if no one was looking. A lot of hostility accompanies vulnerability. To leave out most of the complexities, women have sexual power over men; men have superior physical strength, the implied threat of it, as an equalizer. And they also still own money and culture, and can exclude us from the claim to equality by reducing us to our bodies. (Here’s what enrages me, from the dark ages circa 1966: a woman genius being introduced as “ornamental.”)

But it’s a fine line—maybe part of what singer-songwriter Heather Maloney called “the cozy razor’s edge.” Many women also desire men, and enjoy being desired and complimented when we sense that it is a man risking vulnerability, not revenging it.

Prudery about Nudity, but Not Cruelty

The Venus of Willendorf, too full-frontal for Facebook.

Published in: on March 27, 2020 at 10:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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President P*nis

For all those downcast and infuriated by a Democratic primary field that began with six diverse women and has come back down, YET AGAIN, to two old white men:*

*and Tulsi Gabbard, still standing alone with her surfer’s poise

@ Jo Ann Rothschild

Artist Jo Ann Rothschild, Boston based and Chicago born, is my oldest friend (in friendship years). We have known each other since we were four years old. I will let you imagine what a scary long time that is.

Frustrated by the art world’s indifference to women artists, possibly as long ago as the time of George H. W. Bush and the first Iraq war, Jo Ann sublimated her fury into whimsy.

©Jo Ann Rothschild

I don’t mean “sublimated” in the Freudian sense of “repressed and transformed.” I mean distilled, refined, concentrated, the way they make eau de vie from the steam of pears. Made light, pure, and heady.

Jo Ann looked around her and saw how absurd is the ubiquity of patriarchy, the monopoly of masculinity. She drew and published a little book with a canonical title: The Book of Penis!

It keeps being TIME for this book, and—here we are again!

For context, Jo Ann has sent me a little gallery of other images from the book.

©Jo Ann Rothschild
©Jo Ann Rothschild
©Jo Ann Rothschild

Note: other major religions are not spared. Those two are just my personal funniest.

©Jo Ann Rothschild
©Jo Ann Rothschild

Raising the Skirt

What is anasyrma?

The age-old gesture of lifting one’s skirt and flashing the female genitalia to scare away demons.

And verenda?

Read this article to find out.

Published in: on February 27, 2020 at 8:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gender and 2020

After seeming to deemphasize it—corruption and inequality were her original themes—Elizabeth Warren has now made gender a defiant linchpin of her argument for electability, in a year when some think electability is all . . . . and many fear a woman is not electable. (Whether or not Bernie Sanders is one of these I will leave to your speculation. I am quite sure he believes a woman would be capable of serving as president. I am not so sure he is immune to the widespread worry that America is not capable of electing one. But that’s a subtle distinction long since trampled by the wildebeests of propaganda.)

The picture is chaotic and infuriating, ruled by a nasty mix of timidity and calculation. Progressives think a centrist is not electable; centrists think a progressive is not electable. Significant numbers of each group seem prepared to make their prophecy self-fulfilling by staying home or casting a protest vote if a candidate from the other group wins the nomination. Many women who say they would welcome a female president are so sure that the majority of their fellow Americans wouldn’t that they are hedging their bets by supporting a (white) man. (And, they say they find Warren “strident” and “schoolmarmish,” then deny that anything sexist shapes that perception. Klobuchar is fine, one such friend protests to me; others point out that she’s a “bitch” to her staffers.) Many black voters have made a similar calculation about race. Mayor Pete’s popularity demonstrates that being male (and white) trumps sexual orientation—progress of one kind at the price of another. It’s a sign of panic and petulance that likely voters can neither agree on who the strongest candidate(s) might be nor simply support whomever they believe in.

I started out liking Warren; after the merciless exposure of an overlong campaign season, filled with mistakes and attacks, of course I like her a lot less. I still support her, precisely for what progressive purists (whipped up by a chorus of Furies left, right, and bot*) hate her for: she could compromise. She is hard enough on rampant inequality, plutocracy, and corporate malfeasance while yet not burning every bridge to business or to those who fear government tyranny. It’s a squeaker whether she could pull that off and not be simultaneously traduced as a “liar” and sellout by the left and a socialist Carrie Nation by the right. But no one else has any of both (except possibly Tulsi Gabbard, whose best shot at the presidency—still a long long long shot—is to be Bernie’s VP when he has his next heart attack, presuming him “electable”).

It’s a mess, one we seem hopelessly mired in when we can least afford it. The republic hangs by a thread.

The irony is, gender has never been Elizabeth Warren’s foremost characteristic to me.** I’ve been in situations over the years in which gender was so backgrounded that I forgot to notice it: karate classes in which I was the only female and only realized it as an afterthought; publishing meetings in which there was only one guy, ditto; most conversations with friends. Warren’s candidacy is another one of those for me. The best way I can put it is that she has had the life experiences of a woman but has undergone them as a human. She apparently can’t be bothered with feminine wiles or niceties; she doesn’t dress her intellect or her vehemence in softening sweetness or charm. Ironically this post-genderedness—such a relief—is held against her as a female candidate.

In so many ways—in so many meanings of “we” and “win”—we can’t win.


*What is bots’ preferred pronoun?

**What is Warren’s foremost characteristic in my mind? It’s not just one: inspiring/ charisma, courage, a sense of destiny that at moments has seemed to possess her; maddening/ a boneheaded, tone-deaf tendency to stick to script too long and then shift with an artless clunk-screech of gears, giving the impression that she is both stubborn and opportunistic.

DON’T mess with me.

Say the eyes of Priyanka Singha Roy, 18, of West Bengal, who (two years ago) reportedly beat the crap out of three men who menaced her and her younger sister.

Published in: on January 10, 2020 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Not a happy fate . . .

. . . to love a poet.

T. S. Eliot rises up from the grave to shame the equally dead Emily Hale, whose estate just released fifteen years of letters HE wrote to HER. He never loved her; she would have killed his gift. 🙄

I can’t help thinking of the reverse case: Sharon Olds, one of my heroes, who wrote graphically and sometimes grotesquely (cue two insects devouring each other) of her primal sexual passion for and with her husband. While I found these poems breathtaking and brave, I admit to also wincing for the man in the picture, wondering: Was he down with this public exposure? Then, in late midlife, suddenly he dumped her for a quiet fellow doctor (first I’d heard he was a doctor). Her delayed response was another brave and shame-defying book, this one about her humiliation, shock, and grief, and, finally, generous celebration of his freedom. Stag’s Leap won the Pulitzer Prize . . .  and, ironically, the T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize.

Bette Howland’s Posthumous Second Act

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. . . . At last it had dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

~ Bette Howland

Howland was a protegĂ©, no doubt lover, and lifelong friend of Saul Bellow, who had high regard for her work and untiringly promoted her (ironically culminating in a MacArthur “genius grant” that made her so self-conscious she could no longer finish anything). He also wrote about her mercilessly as a character, Dita Schwartz, in his novel More Die of Heartbreak.

“What would she have made of the furor over her rediscovered work? [Her son] Jacob suspects she would be irritated by the focus on gender, a perpetual theme in reviews and articles. ‘I can hear her voice saying, “I’m not just a woman writer, I’m a writer,’” he says. ‘She thought of herself as an American writer, and more specifically as a Chicago writer,’ working in the tradition of Theodore Dreiser, James T. Farrell, Richard Wright.

“And yet she was a woman writer, writing from her own distinct perspective—as a daughter, as a mother—and that fact shifts the Chicago literature canon, which is still ‘a boys’ club, a sausage fest,’ as [author and critic Bill] Savage puts it. Its beginning is often traced to Carl Sandburg’s poem ‘Chicago,’ Savage says, ‘where he actually personified the city as a working-class man.’ (Interestingly, the few women writers added to the canon in the more recent decades—Lorraine Hansberry, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sandra Cisneros—are all women of color.)”

Published in: on January 2, 2020 at 9:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Second Acts

“I figure I’ve got another 25 years,” musician Jane Jarvis told The Indianapolis Star in 1999. “At least I’ve got 25 years booked out.”

Jane Jarvis

©Brownie Harris

Beloved for playing the organ at Shea Stadium, gainfully employed programming for Muzak, Jarvis “retired” at 64—to start a second career as a jazz musician, her lifelong love. “She recorded her first album as a leader in 1985, the year she turned 70.”

Oh yeah.

The female “dozens”

Praise song, battle boast, and putdown all in one. Awkwafina (she IS a genius!) manages both to crush all rivals and to slay all remaining traces of penis envy once and for all.

UPDATE: Awkwafina wins a Golden Globe!