6.14.2004

More from Daphne Merkin in the Times Magazine, this time on Stepford Wives, worrying about her daughter and friends at:
Brearley, a Manhattan girls' school that prides itself on its high academic standards and is renowned for producing independent-minded young women -- junior bluestockings, if you will. This may be a worthy goal, and my daughter and her friends may be able to read ''The Canterbury Tales'' in Middle English, but what really gnaws at their adolescent souls is not whether they will take over the White House one day but whether they'll lose the boy if they take over the White House. In a nutshell, they are worried about not being feminine enough.

Of course, that's always been the problem, hasn't it: how to be brainy and a babe -- how to quote Descartes without seeming like a dried-up prune, a geekess or, heaven forbid, masculine? Sadly, I think this fear speaks to a larger difficulty lurking on the edges of the post-feminist landscape, one not addressable by slogans or demonstrations because it has to do with the intricately complex manner in which we forge our identities. Men have always been given the leeway of a protean self; they have permission to be many things: a tiger at the office, a pussycat at home, a chump on the golf course.

For women, the choice is more constricted: it's either ravenous red or pliant pink. You're either an aggressive bitch or sweetly pouring the morning coffee, like the women of Stepford.

Not to be a bitch, but all you have to do to have a protean identity is have a protean identity. All this fuss about how to be brainy and how to be a babe frankly surprises us at Cupcake--don't the two automatically go together, at least in New York?

Of course Merkin's daughter wants to retain her sensuality, of course she can't imagine herself without a fabulous love life, White House or not: who would want to give that up? And who needs to?

If the Times Magazine and the New Yorker, say, would give more women the opportunity to write about topics other than fashion, television, and dance, I bet Merkin's daughter, and her granddaughters someday, will have a better shot at being both pink and red, apple and pomegranate, no? And whatever other J Crew colors their luscious little Brearley appetites demand. . .

--Elizabeth
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