I can’t recommend highly enough Wendy Shalit’s Modestly Yours group blog, in which 20 young women of smarts and style, some single, some married, post literate musings on how to live and raise children decently and honorably in a world in which casual sex and prostitution-ready garments are now the female norm. One of Wendy’s prize bloggers is poet Eve Grubin, whose first book, “Morning Prayer,” has received humongous advance critical acclaim.
Eve’s been blogging on the poetry magazine Fence’s decision to run a summer cover featuring the unclothed chest appendages of one of the Suicide Girls (warning to the squeamish: don’t click!), a bevy of Goth-porn young ladies who specialize in revealing quite a bit of pierced and tattooed flesh. The bodacious cover moved un unbelievable number of copies of that issue of Fence (because you know how poetry usually sells)–but also stirred up criticism among poets annoyed that their time-honored profession had stooped to vending pornography. One of the critics was feminist poet/left columnist Katha Pollitt, who can often sound unhinged but made some sound points contra the usual argument that there’s something “liberated” about revealing your mammary glands to the general public. Eve commented:
“Has pornography become so normalized that even our best literary editors use it to market their journals? As Pollitt pointed out, the Suicide Girls themselves claim that they are being exploited by the site owners. Is sexual self-objectification a kind of suicide? Perhaps more people will read poetry because of the summer cover choice of Fence; is it worth it? I am not going to try to answer these questions. I am just placing them here among a community of writers and readers who earnestly (not ironically) respect these kinds of questions.”
This provoked a response in Wendy’s comments section from Pollitt herself pointing out, natch, that the problem isn’t feminism; it’s men:
“What I do believe is that feminism hasn’t gotten us far enough– to economic, social, cultural equality. I think if women were not subordinate they would not be seen as the bearers of sexuality (more than men, that is) and men as the consumers of it. In that world, maybe there would be lots of naked photos used to sell poetry magazines, or maybe there would be none — but it wouldn’t be just WOMEN”S photos.”
Which in turn provoked this response from conservative lesbian Norah Vincent (always a sensible voice) pointing out to Pollitt that–uh–men and women are different, and that even in Pollitt’s feminist utopia they’ll be ice-skating in hell before women start snapping up poetry mags or any other kind of mags because there’s a guy in his birthday suit on the cover:
“[Men] will consume a seemingly endless supply of pictures of naked women, and as long as that is true, which will be forever, someone will want to make a buck selling men what they want. Women, on the other hand, appear to be far less interested in buying pictures of naked men than in buying pictures of chocolate cake. I jokingly call magazines like Martha Stewart Living and Saveur and Food & Wine women’s porn. I mean seriously, have you looked carefully at the extreme close-ups of those baked goods, lovingly splayed and moist? And can you really say that you haven’t felt a, shall we say, less than modest frisson at the prospect of ‘consuming’ just such an item?
“But seriously, vendors sell what people want to buy. If women consumed more pictures of naked men–if they expressed (with their pocketbooks) more of a demand for them– there would be more Playgirls out there, simply because there would be money to be made in printing them. The marketplace knows no political prejudice. It goes where the money is, whorishly so, and always will. The mostly naked pictures of men that do exist in the marketplace are usually used to advertise men’s underwear, and they are aimed at a gay male audience, which, like other men, is motivated by pretty flesh. They also happen to be in the market for some cool underwear.”
I know of few places on the Internet where you can find a blog comments section this high in quality. No wonder Mona Charen finds Wendy’s blog as exciting as I do.