I love it when doctrinaire feminists try to tackle the stuff that women are really interested in: clothes, makeup, and looking good. You get hilarious sentences like this one:
“For some reason, the majority of women simply would not give up the pursuit of beautification, even those armed with feminist theory.”
Laura Kipnis, the author of this observation in an essay in Slate, is a professor of “media studies” at Northwestern University. “Media studies,” for those unitiated into life behind the ivied walls, is a hot new academic discipline in which you can get a Ph.D. for watching “The Sopranos” and putting it into a trendy Marxist context. You can tell that Kipnis is an academic by her essay’s opening clause:
“America’s obsession with fat is increasingly colonizing the cultural imagination….”
The word “colonizing” is trendy professor-speak for “influencing.” (The word “cultural” is a dead giveaway, too; “culture studies” is another hot new academic field that’s similar to “media studies,” except that instead of analyzing what’s on TV, the profs analyze magazine ads, beauty contests, and other ephemera for their Marxist meaning.)
At any rate, Kipnis, like many a feminista before her, is wringing her hands and wondering why, oh why do women, after some 30 years of hectoring by NOW, continue to wear high-heeled shoes and go on diets? Why do they crave so much to be attractive to men? I have a simple answer to that one: they like men, and it’s fun to gussy up your looks to appeal to them.
Kipnis, by contrast, being a professor and “armed with feminist theory,” has an exceedingly complex answer: Men, rather than being our husbands, sons, brothers, and soul-mates as we might think, are actually our arch-enemies, sadistic, power-obsessed, patriarchal brutes. So, reasons Kipnis, we have two strategies for fighting those evil males: “feminism” (of the Gloria Steinem variety), which is good, and “femininity” (those high heels again), which is bad:
“Femininity is a system that tries to secure advantages for women, primarily by enhancing their sexual attractiveness to men. It also shores up masculinity through displays of feminine helplessness or deference….
“Feminism, on the other hand, is dedicated to abolishing the myth of female inadequacy. It strives to smash beauty norms, it demands female equality in all spheres, it rejects sexual market value as the measure of female worth.”
But strangely enough, 99 percent of women, even those as clad in as thick a hauberk of “feminist theory” as Kipnis, go for femininity when they ought to be going for feminism. Why, why, why? Because, dammit, they’re heterosexual! Kipnis laments: “Heterosexuality always was the Achilles heel of feminism.”
Well, maybe we can go to work making women less heterosexual, and they’ll stop heading for the beauty parlor. My own theory, which sad to say, is not “feminist theory,” is that if men and women are indeed in opposing camps (which I don’t believe), women are perfectly capable of holding their own in the Great Struggle Between the Sexes. They possess quite an arsenal of weapons, too, of which beauty is only one: there’s also moral authority, tenderness, and their ineffable ability to make a house a home.
Silly as Kipnis sounds, she’s a sage in comparison to the cultural artifact she’s reviewing as a media-studies maven in her Slate essay: radical dramaturge Eve Ensler’s new play, The Good Body. Ensler’s last dramatic work, “The Vagina Monologues,” was about you know what. The subject matter of this latest work is Ensler’s pot belly. Ah, what “feminist theory” has come to: women writing about women writing about getting fat.