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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the day “December 26, 2012”

Suspense

I know I will have to wait until late on December 31 to find out if we will get to 1,000,000 hits on this blog’s platform. We are at 996,313 hits right now, and nothing can be predicted because end-of-the-year blog-reading is notoriously spotty.

The suspense is ki-iii-iii-iii-lling meeeeee. . .

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Paranoia

Reader Paranoid knows me so well that it’s making me paranoid. This is either somebody who is really brilliant at textual analysis or somebody who is clairvoyant.

Scary Experience

I just had a really scary experience. I’m reading a lot about the Franco-era propaganda for my research right now. (A new article is in the works, and the subject will fascinate you when I share it.) My brain works best when there are several sources of information coming at it at the same time. This is why a Russian TV show is on while I’m reading.

So I’m reading about the way the fascist propaganda in Franco’s Spain defined women’s role in society: women are secondary to men, their role is to serve, women are incapable of producing any original thought, they are weak, they need a strong male guidance, women are incomplete human beings, women are inferior to men in terms of intellect and the basic human worth, a woman’s only role is to be an object of male pleasure, etc.

As I read, however, I get the uncanny feeling that the words in front of me are being repeated aloud. I raise my eyes and realize that the host of the Russian TV show is repeating the same things, word for word, and everybody in the audience is agreeing passionately.

The really weird part of this situation is that the female TV star who delivers this fascist anti-women garbage and the absolute majority of her all-female audience are women who have worked their entire lives, who have been the primary bread-winners for their families, who have fed and clothed their non-working or barely-ever-working husbands, who rule their families with an iron fist, and whom you wouldn’t dare to contradict in real life for fear of being chewed down alive and spit out. I saw this very TV host being interviewed with her husband, and the poor guy lives in holy terror of this woman. She obviously doesn’t practice what she preaches but she honestly thinks she does.

When a bunch of fundamentalist housewives gets together and chirps out this stuff, it at least makes some sort of a practical sense. They sell their agency for being fed and clothed, for having an identity they didn’t work to achieve, for being spared the unwelcome need to grow up. It is not the kind of bargain I can understand or approve of, but at least it makes some sort of sense.

What I don’t get about the women in my (Russian-speaking) culture, though, is the sheer impracticality of their willing self-debasement. It is mind-boggling that in the XXIst century women who have have grown up in a society where for the past 95 years all women worked (by all I mean 100%), have been strong, powerful, and active, women would spout the Franco-era garbage of their own free will and for absolutely no discernible reason whatsoever.

P.S. These Russian TV shows I watch have traumatized N.’s feminist soul to such an extent that he started having nightmares. I now have to turn them off whenever he comes home from work because the poor man suffers too badly when he hears all this anti-women crap. I will continue watching, however, because this is an ethnographic phenomenon that needs to be studied.

About the Dentist who Fired His Assistant for Being Attractive

Three readers have asked me to comment on the story about the Iowa dentist who fired his assistant because he was attracted to her and felt this was jeopardizing his marriage. All I can say, folks, is that I really don’t want to comment because this is a story about weird people doing bizarre things, and it makes no sense to analyze the story where there is too much unexplained weirdness.

The man wanted to save his marriage and this is why he made his extramarital erections a subject of discussion on thousands of blogs, articles, radio shows, and news programs? Does anybody really believe this shit? Of all the strange things people do to save their marriages, creating a very public brouhaha about the exact physiological symptoms of your attraction to somebody other than you spouse seems too outlandish even for Iowans.

The fired assistant is running a close race with the dentist for the prize of the weirdo of the century. She receives sexually charged comments and answers text message from her employer asking how often she orgasms and just takes it in her stride because she “saw him as a mentor”? A mentor in what exactly, if I may ask? And then she goes to court because she wants to keep working in a place where she is harassed and where her presence has become hugely conflictive? Yeah, makes total sense. Of course, it is entirely possible that everything she did (including putting up with harassment) was simply a way of accumulating evidence in order to sue and wrench a good settlement out of him. Which makes the whole story even more disgusting.

I believe that the participants of this brouhaha are lying. For some reason, they need all this drama and exposure and they are very successful in manufacturing interest towards themselves. Maybe the dentist’s business wasn’t doing all that good. Dentists lose a lot of profit in a recession. I know that my dentist is positively desperate to get patients to her office. Alternatively, they might simply be bored. Imagine living in Iowa all your life. You just might get to a point where turning some tawdry office flirtation into a major media event will sound entertaining.

In any case, contrary to what people are suggesting (see linked post), I don’t see any feminist issue here. Just a bunch of weirdos who are probably huge fans of the Jerry Springer show.

Classics Club #8: Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany‘s is the first book on my Classics Club list that has disappointed me. I can’t even say it’s bad because this short novel is too trivial and meaningless to rise to the level of badness. I have absolutely no idea what possessed the author to explore one of the most tired old plots in the history of humanity as late as 1958. Novels narrated by males who are puzzled and attracted / repulsed by a prostitute abound. What is the point of writing yet another one if you can;t contribute anything new to the subject?

I understand, of course, that nobody is likely to invent a new plot these days. But you have got to bring something new even to the most exploited old theme. Capote doesn’t manage to do that, however. He rewrites Abbé Prévost, Kuprin, Zola et al. but his incapacity to rise to their level either artistically or ideologically makes Breakfast at Tiffany‘s nothing but a sad, pale parody.

The book I purchased also contained three short stories, so I decided to read them in order to give Capote a chance to redeem himself in my eyes. And what do you think? The very first story yet again discussed female prostitution in the same saccharine, cloying way as the short novel. I don’t know what made Capote, a gay man, so obsessed with female prostitution but this fixation definitely detracts from the quality of his writing.

If you read the novel and liked it, do share what it is that you enjoyed about it.

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