12.13.2004

I love that Elfriede Jelinek quote below, but I'm not sure I buy it.

Sure, most people believe that women lose their value as they age, and certainly (I just saw Sideways this weekend), the whole Barely Legal phenomenon is real, and nasty, etc.

But: I think it's about the fact that women buy into this little panic and doubt about losing their power as they age. Bulletin to the women of America (and Austria, I suppose): sexual power is not about some grim gym routine or surgery or dumbass craigslist point of view, it's about just being a woman. And being happy. As with so many things these days, for guidance, we must look at the way things are in France. The immense beauty of French women has to do with their attitude towards womanhood and pleasure, not with putting on some spandex and a baseball cap and sweating all over a cardio machine all afternoon on a Sunday. To say women have power through their "body, beauty, and youth" is not true at face value. Women get punished all the time professionally for being too close to the supposed beauty ideal, and for being too young. But this is true about beauty: women's power is equivalent to the degree to which they harness beauty and happiness for themselves.

Dear god please don't let my relatives ever read this blog, but it's about this: Who has the pussy? Meaning: if you're a woman, and you know what a badass you are, and you're doing what you feel like doing, and you're doing whatever is a little scary for you and learning to ignore your doubt (and Barely Legal, and the Swan, and Anna Wintour etc.), you have at all times an adoring cadre of amazing men, (including our venture capitalist friend here at Cupcake, for example), willing to do almost anything for you.

Yes: you will eventually get raked over the coals by Fox News, the NYT Book Review, and possibly the feds.

Yes: men still control 99 percent of the resources on the planet, and 80 percent of the New Yorker. Yes: that is fucked up. Yes: beauty standards are insane and weirdly porn star/California aerobic instructor if you look at your television. But you can't just sit around and expect the men to be able to change that shit. According to my friend Regena, this is the kind of thing men think up without a woman around: monster truck extravaganzas.

Let me look at this Jelinek quote again:

"As long as men are able to increase their sexual value through work, fame or wealth, while women are only powerful through their body, beauty and youth, nothing will change."

Jelinek also says:

"A woman who becomes famous through her work reduces her erotic value. A woman is permitted to chat or babble, but speaking in public with authority is still the greatest transgression."

It's this second quotation that is most interesting to me: I don't really buy that success inhibits your sexual power as a woman, but I do buy that a woman speaking with authority in a male realm, oh, say, American letters, is still a threat. The New Yorker is so nice to keep us from these huge transgressions by giving us 20 percent of their bylines, and making sure that that 20 percent always includes a babbly'n'chatty dance, television, or fashion review.This is where I believe in focusing our attention for change, this is where I believe we need a collective effort to first expose the lame, outdated sexism and then even things up. The other stuff: it's an inside job.

xo
Elizabeth
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