April 1, 2008
Sure, I’ll admit it. Sex Like Men has been out of commission. But that was before a spokesperson for the anti-sex campaign went and employed my phrase, in the goddamn New York Times Magazine (you’ll remember them from that classic piece, “The Kids Call It Hooking Up”). This most recent article features Harvard student and abstinence-crusader Janie Fredell, who argues that:
“Conventional feminism teaches that control of your body means the freedom to have sex without consequences — sex like a man. ‘I am an unconventional feminist,’ Fredell said, in the sense that she asserts control by choosing not to have sex — by telling men, no, absolutely not.”
While abstinence-only programs are federally funded and touted by many of the nation’s leaders as the only moral choice, on a conventional college campus in the Northeast, the public decision to abstain from sex can be a lonely road. But Janie had coping mechanisms of her own: “To bolster herself, she often thought of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.”
November 12, 2007
Last Wednesday, it happened. The “plus-size” contestant got kicked off America’s Next Top Model. We’d all been waiting for it–the only real question was what excuse they would use this time. Actually, it was pretty harsh: Sarah was deemed too skinny for plus-size but too big for regular modeling, and unceremoniously booted from the show. She wept. It was sad.
As Sarah herself had pointed out, she’s a regular-sized girl. Who’s hot, and really awesome, but whatever. I guess we’re not supposed to expect a girl like Sarah to win Top Model–call me crazy, but I actually had thought the show might evolve.
It’s not just the judges’ decision that proved me wrong, but the rest of the episode as well. We’ve got a major front-runner this season, Heather (at right), and her almost unbeatable appeal comes from a pale, bony body and striking, sometimes disturbing, features. Besides making Asperger’s the hottest new neurological disorder, Heather takes great pictures and charms the audience and the judges with her awkward eagerness. She also plays up a kind of false modesty—her favorite story to tell goes something like, “Until I was eleven, I sincerely believed I was ugly.” (Sounds tragic, Heather. We’re glad to hear you’ve since recovered.)
May 6, 2007
Grey’s Anatomy makes the news today in a critique of the weak, sexually manipulated female character. The link Alessandra Stanley draws between Grey’s and Ally McBeal is one I had noticed as well, or, rather, I see both Ellen Pompeo and Calista Flockhart (in Brothers & Sisters as well as other roles) playing up this neurotic, babbling version of *cuteness* that drives me crazy. Someone must have told them once that it’s adorable to act scattered and half-witted. It’s not. More importantly, why would it be? In theory, these characters might be described as strong, opinionated women because they express themselves with passion, but it’s a passion that sounds much more like hysteria. Pompeo and Flockhart, with their already bony bodies and wan faces, lose the ability to speak in coherent sentences when a man’s around. This weakness is cast as the basis of their charm.
Kate Walsh, who plays Addison on Grey’s Anatomy, seemed to have more substance to her, with her striking good looks and rich personality. But her character was eroded over time, and after being rejected by her crush she has a meltdown and drives to California in a red convertible, with hair flying in her face. Stanley was right to note the desperation of the three women set up as the stars of Addison’s future spin-off. But the show also looks like it might try to speak to the fairly common and understandably defeated feeling of people in their late thirties trying to move on after divorce. What I did take issue with, however, was the scene where these three women arrange themselves carefully in the lobby at 1:05pm exactly in order to ogle the surfer-boy receptionist as he walks topless through the office (fully enjoying these women’s gaze).
This indulgence of sexual fantasy and their objectification of a younger man seemed a little more embarrassing than it did pleasurable. They didn’t look empowered; they looked like three women with messy personal lives who must turn to a little shallow entertainment as a substitute for emotional and sexual satisfaction. These women don’t get to leer like men, not convincingly anyway.