June 17, 2007

Women are so very competent, so why do we stare at the screw-ups?

Naomi Wolf ponders the complexities of why we care what happens to Paris Hilton. Why, she asks, when real women manifest "high levels of competence, idealism and all-around effectiveness," do we obsess over pop culture screw-ups? Wolf considers one possibility, in the most interesting paragraph of her essay, and then embraces her preferred answer, that women these days are doing so well handling all their responsibilites that we "sometimes we get tired of our own competence" and want the "escapism" of fantasizing about the alternative of "letting it all go to pieces and having someone else clean up the mess."

But let's look at the paragraph where she allows herself to says something that doesn't fit quite so neatly into her praise for the wonderful, hypercompetent women of today:
On some deep level, there's a generalized feeling that women's vulnerability equals the guarantee of receiving a reliable supply of their love and care. There's an anxiety that if women become too strong, too independent, we won't be able to count on them to nurture and they won't need love. Because men, children and (not to put too fine a point upon it) the whole edifice of human civilization depend on women's willingness to nurture, it's scary to take a step into the unknown -- to see if women will continue to love if they're really free to choose whether to do so. (We will, of course, but it will take a generation or so of proof for everyone to calm down about it.)
Oh, no! A scary thought! Wolf immediately inserts a parenthetical denying that the liberation of women could actually upset something significant. And don't think she's the one who's scared by the cause and effect she was able to envision.

It's
your problem: Calm down. Surely, you don't want to be among the retrograde characters who are going to take "a generation or so of proof." What's with these people not instinctively seeing how good progress simply must be? They actually need to see and observe the consequences of social change before they can join me and all the other good people who know that this will all work out for the best?

But let's think about these deep feelings. What if many of the most competent, strong, and independent women choose to not to form families? What if the ability to do everything for yourself gives rise a preference for remaining free of all of the extra burden of taking care of the needs of others? What if ambition to excel in public life causes many women to embrace the simplicity and freedom of an independent private life? These are perfectly rational questions, not mere hysteria or antifeminism. Wolf tries to package the questions away into the matter of whether women will "continue to love," which is a crude simplication. Oh, yes, Naomi, love, love, love. We'll always want to love.

And then it's back to the boosterism: Women are soooooo competent.

***

Of course, there's a much easier way to explain our obsession with celebrity screw-ups. Why do we stare at a car wreck instead of constantly marveling at all the cars that proceed expeditiously along the highway without incident? What's with all this news from a war zone when there so many peace zones? Why does the newspaper have an obituary page instead of running notices telling us that people are not dead yet?

66 comments:

Adam said...

I really don't believe the fact that Paris Hilton is a woman is significant at all for the reasons the media and the public have been covering her. There have been male stars who have received similar attention for their rehab/imprisonment (Robert Downey Jr., Mel Gibson, etc).

I also think that PAris Hilton is receiving so much attention is because she is basically a media whore. She has spent every waking moment of the last five years trying to gain publicity with her clothes/lack of clothes, her vanity music videos, her night club visits, her fueds with other celebrities, etc.

The media is addicted to her because she allows them to gourge themselves. And the public loves to watch her fall from grace because we were never in love with her in the first place - we just couldn't look away.

rhhardin said...

It's soap opera, is why.

And why do women like soap opera? Thurber's characterization of the genre : ``In many soap operas, a permanent question is either implied or actually posed every day by the serial narrators. These questions are usually expresed in terms of doubt, indecision, or inner struggle. Which is more important, a woman's heart or a mother's duty? Could a woman be happy with a man fifteen years older than herself? Should a mother tell her daughter that the father of the rich man she loves ruined the fortunes of the daughter's father? Should a mother tell her son that his father, long believed dead, is alive, and a criminal? Can a good, clean Iowa girl find happiness as the wife of New York's most famous matinee idol? Can a beautiful stepmother, can a widow with two children, can a restless woman married to a preoccupied doctor, can a mountain girl in love with a millionaire, can a woman married to a hopeless cripple, can a girl who married an amnesia case - can they find soap-opera happiness and the good, soap-opera way of life? No, they can't - not, at least, in your lifetime and mine. The characters in Soapland and their unsolvable perplexities will be marking time on the air long after you and I are gone, for we must grow old and die, whereas the people of Soapland have a magic immunity to age, like Peter Pan and the Katzenjammer Kids. When you and I are in Heaven with the angels, the troubled people of Ivorytown, Rinsoville, Anacinburg, and Crisco Corners, forever young or forever middle-aged, will still be up to their ears in inner struggle, soul searching, and everlasting frustration.''

Vicki Hearne says women are happiest and most interested with related and unresolved situations, which they like to navigate in without simplifying ; unlike the male, who likes to abstract out a single aspect and resolve it, and then another, and then another, ignoring what he is not working on.

This gives women enormous advantages in riding horses, where tact rather than courage is most helpful.

But it means women are not much interested in math.

To the extent that success is taken as being like men, women are not playing to their interests or their strengths.

Ruth Burdick (_Engendering Romance_) takes for example Moby Dick, The Counting House, The Scarlet Letter as illustrating worlds without women, in terms of these interests playing.

So the soap opera plays to the remaining women, or is a guilty pleasure of the newly `competent' (but a male standard of competence) ones. I don't think men follow Paris Hilton except to ridicule the audience for it.

There's a feminism that's been supressed that perhaps will find its expression again, again Vicki Hearne , that fits the Western heroic tradition as well.

See also Derrida's remarks on woman's place in the Choreographies interview, starting with the Emma Goldman quote, ``If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.''

Perhaps women make the places.

rhhardin said...

Trying second Vicki Hearne reference again, to eliminate trailing garbage characters.

Rick Lee said...

So that's why I couldn't watch a soap. I started watching "Days of Our Lives" for a time right after getting married. My wife had watched it while in college and we were taping it every day. I enjoyed it for a while but then suddenly I said "This is crazy! Nothing ever gets resolved.. I can't watch this!"

Roger Sweeny said...

Deep thoughts for 6:15 in the morning. Or perhaps deep thoughts because 6:15 in the morning.

Very interesting, and very well put.

Ann Althouse said...

roger: Funny, I never looked at the clock when I got up this morning. I looked at this other thing that happened to show how long I'd been asleep and then forgot to think about what time it was. That was odd.

rick: that sort of attitude can be extended to all sorts of fiction. You could start to notice that they are just making up problems for these poor people.

vet66 said...

Ladies, be careful what you wish for as it may come true.

Every choice has consequences. Choose the ones you can live with.
I tend to believe that marriage and children is far more fulfilling than working for a company that gives you a gold watch when you retire. The choice is yours, of course, but I believe that at the end of our lives I would rather have something more substantial than a long resume to keep me company in the assisted living facility.

Can you live with the regrets, if any? None of us live forever and memories are all we have in our final days.

Choose wisely!

Pogo said...

Re: "We will, of course, but it will take a generation or so of proof for everyone to calm down about it."

I have come to the opposite conclusion and, of course, been derided as reactionary.

But one merely has to look at the demographics of disappearance in Italy, France, and Denmark to see that yes, the whole edifice of human civilization does in fact depend on (both men and) women's willingness to nurture ...children. Not having any kids, as is happening across the EU , electing instead for the far easier path of self-fulfillment, is a path to ensure that both your own line and your civilization's will not for long endure.

For example, Wolf writes: "So reading about Britney leaving her babies at home (bad mother!) to dance drunk on tabletops (bad mother!)".

Being unable to say that, yes, in fact, Spears is quite a bad mother is sufficient evidence to me that Wolf is one of those people who really believes that no matter how badly you screw up someone's childhood, no matter how neglectful (though not outright abusive) you are, and indeed no matter who raises your kids (a nanny is the same as a birth mom), kids will be "fine".

That is, she has no idea where civilization comes from.

ricpic said...

It's a false dilemma: what if the best and the brightest women choose not to give love and have families? Women are hard wired to nurture. Doesn't mean they don't get sick of the demands put upon them from time to time. But...a child cries? a woman is helpless not to respond.

Gahrie said...

At the risk of being labeled a thuggish neanderthal:

When did the social fabric of our country begin to unravel? The mid 1960's. What is significant about that? These are the children raised by Rosie the Riveter and her sisters.

The point is not that things began to go to hell once women started working. Women have always worked, and worked hard. The point is that things began to go to hell once large numbers of women began to work full time outside the home.

amba said...

Painful. The post, and the comments too. Are we hard-wired to love? (Why does Livia Soprano come to mind?) Or is that male wishful thinking, and is it some combination of firmware and brainwashing?

Ann, sorry to keep repeating myself, but you really ought to read Dalma Heyn's books. She basically says, "If you want to save marriage, make it hospitable to the whole woman." Now that will be taken as saying that men should become servile compromisors, but that is not what she's saying. This is almost always viewed as a zero-sum game.

Ann Althouse said...

Amba: I had a copy of that book and skimmed it. I think it was among the books I cleared out of my house last year....

Ann Althouse said...

The thing is, Amba, that's a self-help book -- which I didn't buy, but had sent to me -- aimed at women who are married to a man who is not meeting their hopes/dreams/needs/expectations. I'm not married, so what's it going to do for me? Make me want to be in a relationship with an inadequate man so I can try to change him? Make me smugly congratulate myself for not being in that predicament?

I don't read self-help books, and if I did, I'd read ones that had to do with my situation, which that doesn't. Plus, like all self-help books, it looked really padded -- with women's magazine anecdotes. Ugh!

I used to have a job that consisted of reading (and coding) magazines, and I read all the women's magazines for 2 years (in the mid 70s). I will never get over my loathing for the genre. I was at the "Breast Center" of the UW Hospital a couple weeks ago, to get a regular mammogram, and the special Breast Center waiting room was full of women's magazines. I felt insulted. Because I'm a woman, you think I want to read this?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Professor A: Annie is recommending something to you which may not be within your normal wheelhouse of reading. She knows a good deal about you and I think she's a keen observer of human nature. Why would you be so dismissive?

Mortimer Brezny said...

Not to be a booster of hypercompetent women, but this is a hypercompetent post.

Cedarford said...

The dark side of woman's need to nurture and take care of others is also quite obvious.

1. The reason "Nanny State" laws like peanut butter bans, reckless & unaccountable spending on declining schools, fireworks bans, seat belt laws happen is politicians know all they have to say is "Its for the children, the children!!!" and they automatically lock up 2/3rds of the female vote.

2. We know that if another major terror attack happens in America, poll numbers will instantly shift as the large herd of women once again see security=nurturing and drives up approval of manly men they see as defenders against the pillagers and raiders come to violate the woman's nest somehow.
(Bush's near instant rise in polls from the 40s to the 70s after 9/11 was women flipping from more "teachers and social workers" to more "protectors".

3. There is a reason why serial killers receive hundreds of letters of support and caring a month - almost all from women.

4. Childless or low fertility female populations in Europe, N America, Israel are far more likely than women in fertile family situations to displace the "nurturing" to needy others outside their race or ethnicity. Many childless women are known to cry over 3rd world children...or cats or dogs in need. Women with kids tend to believe charity and concern is best concentrated on local affairs. (The exception being those poor with large families that pay nothing financially for their calls to support them and all the needy and unfortunate they are aware of)

And Pogo is right. The modern lifestyle of the childless, secular working woman is self-extinguishing. It may be harsh, but a Palestinian immigrant of the Shiite faith once told me that while a female Israeli doctor is admired and written about because of her research, his unlauded wife, who had 7 children in America who all wish to return to Palestine - is more important in the long run, more about the future.

Tim said...

I think Naomi Wolf should return to her core competency of advising Democrat men running for president how to dress.

She can start with presumptive nominees, the Hillary!

Balfegor said...

What if many of the most competent, strong, and independent women choose to not to form families? What if the ability to do everything for yourself gives rise a preference for remaining free of all of the extra burden of taking care of the needs of others? What if ambition to excel in public life causes many women to embrace the simplicity and freedom of an independent private life? These are perfectly rational questions, not mere hysteria or antifeminism.

I think it is true that a certain percentage of women have chosen to live their lives alone, without men or children (or, if with children, only through artificial conception). But not many. And a generation after the idea of "women's liberation" in that whole 60's sense, I think a lot of the new generation of young women are looking at the choices the older generation made and deciding that those choices were mistakes. Don't we get those articles in the NYT from time to time, gasping about how the best and the brightest, at places like Harvard and Princeton and Yale, intend to put marriage and family before career?

It may be the case that these ambitions will come to nothing, and that they'll end up working for the same high-pressure city firms their male classmates do, lose sight of the personal, and miss out on the chances for marriage and children in the ordinary course of things. Maybe there are other problems -- an idealisation of marriage leading to rapid divorce, a lack of men with ebenburtigkeit willing marry them, etc. -- we read about these in the paper too. But I don't think these obstacles will prevail, in the end.

It's still too early to say, perhaps, but there's reason to believe that the worst consequences of womens' liberation have not and will not come to pass here in America.

In Japan and Korea, on the other hand . . . that's just a mess. A total collision of values. One of the cabinet ministers in Japan, Hakuo Yanagisawa got in trouble earlier this year for characterising women as machines for giving birth to children. And of course, they have a panoply of ineffective government policies and programs that are supposed to stimulate childbirth and child-rearing.

Joe said...

This isn't a woman thing, it's actually quite simple; we revel in the high being brought low (especially at their own hand.)

blake said...

First of all, women are not especially competent. They seem to fall pretty much along a similar bell curve as men (perhaps, as the late Mr. Summers suggests, with fewer outliers).

Second, and more important than Wolf's chauvinism, it's the news media, not "us" who are "staring" at Paris. And they're doing it because, fundamentally, they're lazy.

When Paris' PR Agents started flooding them with stories about her, they could've recognized that there was no "there" there and just passed on it. But then, some effort might have been required to fill all that space created by the wholesale daily slaughter of trees.

This is sort of like the shock (shock, I say!) of discovering that news outlets use stories from the US government (only a problem under Republican administrations, and even then somehow an attack on the administration and not the laziness of journalists).

Pfeh.

Stephen said...

Wolf mentions her daughter in the first sentence of a WaPo column dated June 17. Then natters on about women for the rest of the Father's Day piece.
What? No one else noticed?
The Glamour Women of the Year Awards Wolf refers to in her opening sentence is 10 day old news.
Wolf writes about "...this kind of empowered, right-on female role modeling" every freakin' day.

I hope Wolf's daughter is savvy enough to be rolling her eyes.

What a tedious bore Wolf is.

Fen said...

amba: Painful. The post, and the comments too. Are we hard-wired to love?..Or is that male wishful thinking, and is it some combination of firmware and brainwashing?

Hard-wired to nurture not love. Perhaps its a maternal instinct, much like the male's instinct to procreate with every female in the tribe. I think it can be redirected when that instinct comes into conflict with a career woman's lifestyle, but supressing it can be dangerous to both the female and to society.

Fen said...

Joe: This isn't a woman thing, it's actually quite simple; we revel in the high being brought low

Guilty as charged. I must admit, I never followed the Paris Hilton gossip before. The only reason I do so now is because I found her attitude to be annoying and am gloating that its what brought her down.

Fen said...

Balfegor: I think it is true that a certain percentage of women have chosen to live their lives alone, without men -

If I was a woman, I would too. I've been in "wolfpacks" all my life: athletic teams, fraternity, Marine Corps, etc. Ninety percent of the men I've known are complete jerks.

AJ Lynch said...

How about this??? Even vapid, dim, dumb and predictable Paris is way more interesting than Naomi "wear more earth-tone clothing Mr. Gore" Wolf.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Ninety percent of the men I've known are complete jerks.

Women say that about other women, too.

Luckyoldson said...

Ann says: "...the special Breast Center waiting room was full of women's magazines. I felt insulted. Because I'm a woman, you think I want to read this?"

Unbelieveable!!!

No Sports Illustrated? Maxim? Penhouse? Playboy??

How could your Breast Center could be so out of touch with what real women really want?

TMink said...

The public cares because she is hot and in prison.

If she were not hot, there would be no Paris.

Trey

Kirby Olson said...

She is apparently praying so as to get through her time in prison.

Perhaps this time will deepen her a little. It wouldn't take much to deepen her but I think she's going to come out sadder and wiser and changed. Her life has been too much eating cake so far. Let her try bread.

knoxwhirled said...

Even vapid, dim, dumb and predictable Paris is way more interesting than Naomi "wear more earth-tone clothing Mr. Gore" Wolf.

LOL!
... and furthermore, she's way WAY more interesting than Mr. Gore.

I enjoy the Saga of Paris and reading gossip rags in general, and I think it's because of a lack of fun stories in entertainment nowadays. Modern fiction sucks for the most part, and most TV dramas stink too. I'm hard pressed to find a movie I have any desire to see... Celebrity gossip provides a cast of characters with evolving stories that provide tons of amusement. Their lives read like some nutty Evelyn Waugh yarn.

dave™© said...

Self-hating, a blithering idiot, AND a drunk.

You're the whole package, lady!

tc said...

Women are not -and never will be- the equal of men. Women are more than men -they are the past and the future. They make life,they make life livable and they make advance possible. But they are not men.
Feminism has created chaos today by insisting that men and women are the same,are equal. And that chaos may lead to the extinction of the human race in the very near future.

echidne said...

Women are not -and never will be- the equal of men. Women are more than men -they are the past and the future. They make life,they make life livable and they make advance possible. But they are not men.
Feminism has created chaos today by insisting that men and women are the same,are equal. And that chaos may lead to the extinction of the human race in the very near future.


Why would it? This commenter seems to think that being a traditional woman was really horrible and that no woman would want to do that, unless forced to do so. A dismal view of the society.

Now, I don't think that men and women are the same but they sure are a lot more similar than most commenters on this thread seem to think. Women, for example, have always worked. To assume that an independent-minded and ambitious woman would not marry or have children today is based on a very dismal view of marriage from the woman's angle, one in which she doesn't get any of her needs satisfied while satisfying everybody else's needs. This is not what I see among real-world marriages. Most men are not selfish ogres, either, you know, and the assumption that women either are that or down-trodden baby machines is astonishing.

I'm always extremely worried when someone puts women on a pedestal as in this post, because it usually means only that someone tries to peek under her skirt. Besides, you can't do anything at all while on a pedestal.

echidne said...

Hmm. tc's other views on women and gays can be found here.

Ann Althouse said...

echidne: TC is an abusive commenter whose posts I'm constantly deleting, but I'll leave that one since you commented on it, but obviously it's ridiculous and not characteristic of the discussion around here. Don't you think Wolf overpraises women?

rsb said...

I don't think this is anything new. People were very interested in people like Evelyn Nesbit too. (and so on, on down the line)

echidne said...

Don't you think Wolf overpraises women?

Probably in some ways. Certainly by focusing on the upper classes only. But one way of seeing what she is doing is to view it as the other side of the exaggeration the Paris Hilton and missing-white-woman stories convey. Most women (and most men) have average lives with average (though sometimes quite heroic) deeds.

reader_iam said...

Me, I carry my own reading material of choice(s) with me everywhere, and (almost**) always have, going on, oh, 40 years now.***

As a result, I've never had to give a rat's ass about what's on offer, or the who's or what's behind that.

Creating irrelevance is a skill all its on.

**It's a weak almost, in that it's so rare as to be not worth bothering about, and I wouldn't, except that I'm pretty sure that I somewhere, sometime blogged about an exception (and blamed myself, I believe, for not "carrying," as is right). Not worth it to me to Google/confirm, either way, but ... given how these 'nets work ... heaven forbid I shouldn't acknowledge minor exceptions--lest stupid-ass significance(s) result.

Luckyoldson said...

tc says..."Feminism has created chaos today by insisting that men and women are the same,are equal. And that chaos may lead to the extinction of the human race..."

Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Who woulda thunk it?

Men AND women..."equal."

We're doomed.

reader_iam said...

Since the blessed advent of the iPod, I get to carry my own ear-company, too (music, commentary, whatever).

Thus I never have to be forced to ponder this: "Because I'm a woman you think I want to listen to this?"

Etc. And I DO mean etc.

reader_iam said...

But for the record: What do I know?

After all, I do, sometimes or frequently (depending on the topic or source), make a point of reading things to which I'm not instantly drawn or even to which I have an aversion, as a check and for other reasons of my own. Sometimes, I even consider doing so based on the recommendation of someone worthy of respect.

And sometimes, I reject that recommendation--without being dismissive of the recommender or his or her demonstrated good faith.

What the hell was that about, Althouse?

Kev said...

"First of all, women are not especially competent. They seem to fall pretty much along a similar bell curve as men (perhaps, as the late Mr. Summers suggests, with fewer outliers)."

Last I checked, Larry Summers is still alive, unless you mean that a lot of people said "he's dead to me" after disagreeing with his "differences between the sexes" remarks.

Or did you mean a different Mr. Summers, who is in fact (like Generalissimo Francisco Franco) still dead?

Synova said...

It's not that she's a woman. It's that she's rich.

Paris, I mean.

Oh, looks like I'm not the first to say so.

Did anyone mention the Greek or Roman pantheon yet? (Or the Norse. Can't forget the Norse.)

It's all very simple. We feel like our lives aren't so bad after all, even if we're poor, or not powerful.

Gary Rosen said...

C-fudd made up that bullshit about the "Palestinian immigrant", he just had to satisfy his obsessive compulsion to make it always about the Jooooos.

blake said...

Kev,

I was referring to his career death, though overall, 'twas an observation of such obviousness that it perhaps suggests lack of humor on my part.

Hey, Lucky, here's a fun historical exercise: a) Examine cultures where women have achieved equality; b) examine what happened afterwards to those cultures.

(This is just another observation with no import express or implied. You just might wanna smile when you say "doomed!")

Jody Tresidder said...

Feminism has probably made it harder for male boors to find obliging mates.

A good outcome, on balance.

George said...

I'm in the shoe store yesterday....

Buying flip-flops for my daughter...

The clerk (a guy) says...

"These are real hot....They're the brand that Tara Reid wore when she went into rehab."

?

Smilin' Jack said...

I didn't want to see those pictures of Paris Hilton crying. Maybe she needs to be punished or rehabilitated or reeducated or some damn thing, but the fact that so many people seem to enjoy watching the process and gloating over images of a young woman who has done them no harm "sobbing helplessly in the back seat of a police car," is sickening.

Wolf's overwitten overanalysis is unnecessary. The explanation here is just the old and too familiar dark side of human nature: envy, spite, and sadism.

Doug said...

Whether one is male or female, or competent or merely average, the fascination with this story is basic. Someone who was born on third base and thought she hit a triple, is finally in a situation that her money can not fix. After seeing her prance, pose, porn out, act superior for all these years, it seems like there is some sort of justice in having this humble pie shoved down her troat for the whole world to watch.

Since I am not a competent female, I can only guess on what they think. I would imagine they see their success in life as the product of working hard and playing by the rules. Paris Hilton became famous by being the world's number one bar whore and by having wealthy parents. She arrogantly acts as if the rules of society don't apply to her, so it is refreshing that maybe for 23 days while she sits in the slammer, that the rules do apply to her.

River Cocytus said...

I always find stuff like this somewhat disheartening. I hope to God that someone like Wolf does not really have that big of an audience. It's been said that women tend to seek completeness in themselves and perfection in a mate, whereas men tend to seek perfection in themselves and completion in a mate. That is to say, pumping girls up with self-perfection - shiny careers, self-esteem boosters, grand futures made with their work and cleverness alone, idealization of independence, etc, they will find they can get 'perfection' in themselves.

This may in fact be true, but --- big but here, being both the completer and the perfecter is a s***ty life, full of stress, guilt, and all manner of things. Being both responsible for the goals and the operation of a business for instance, is torture if the business is anything bigger than a mom & pop thing. This doesn't mean women don't work and leaders don't manage, but it seems like the goal here (whether intentional or not) is to seal women off - protecting them perhaps - from need. This is not need in the sense of, you know, pathological codependency, but rather, like the plant needing soil, etc. A sort of functional need that allows for growth.

The reverse trend for men of course, is to provide for their wants - completion - in false and misleading ways. Instead of redirecting what they seek in others - completion - to a single mate and then a family, home, business, civilization, etc, they buy porn, video games, movies, and so on. Its much like the man, who in the past, spent his life drowned in books or study to the detriment of actually doing something with his life.

But now the books read themselves for you, look nice, are in full color and motion, and so forth.

I don't see either as something wholly new, but a new (and disturbing) twist on an old problem.

I think there's a psychological idea of a 'transitional space' (which applies to more than psychology) - this means a 'bad place' in a mild sense, a state of need or incompletion - which forces change but more importantly growth upon the resident of this space. Society is that space, but we as people have, instead of growing, used career & empowerment (for women), and porn, movies & games (for men) to seal off that space. It makes life easier and more comfortable, but it would be like a seed that developed a harder shell so that it never needed to germinate.

Not all change is beneficial, and anyhow, its mostly superficial. I don't blame anyone but we as people, for accepting the world we helped build without questioning if it was the right thing to do.

As for Hilton, I see it more as just an obsession with other people's problems, on one hand related to soap operas (someone had noted this before.) and the other a kind of schadenfreude about Paris basically being a vapid media whore.

Wolf? She's just projecting.

Revenant said...

Wolf's overwitten overanalysis is unnecessary. The explanation here is just the old and too familiar dark side of human nature: envy, spite, and sadism.

Yep. People have been vicariously getting off on seeing the mighty brought low since at least the days of Greek theater.

Ann Althouse said...

reader_iam said..."Me, I carry my own reading material of choice(s) with me everywhere..."

I had my own reading material, and a computer picking up the WiFi, but I was just irritated at the message: this is what women are.

amba said...

Sorry to get back so late. The book you had sent you (DRAMA KINGS) WAS padded and turned into a semi self-help book at the publishers' demand, and Dalma used to work for women's magazines (as both editor and writer) so she had the anecdotes available.

Too bad, because there's a lot more there, and especially in her other two books, than meets the superficial eye. But you won't be able to get to it, I guess.

I also am bored, annoyed, and insulted by women's magazines. And I hate self-help books. But I have written for both (co-authored, in the second case; I've never drunk as much alcohol in my life before or since) in order to make a living when I didn't have the luxury of building up to a more intellectual career, which take a lot of speculative investment. Women's magazines were among the very few freelance markets that paid a living wage.

amba said...

The book of Dalma's you got was about dating, and the men women ran into who are "out there" who were acting in some strange ways. The conclusion was that the women wanted men but no longer needed them in the old dependent way, and therefore came out of even unsatisfactory experiences stronger and more satisfied with their own lives.

The other two are about how women having affairs or leave marriages because they feel suffocated and not free to be and live as themselves.

amba said...

Sorry to be so uncharacteristically incoherent. I'm stuck in an airport.

Ann Althouse said...

"The conclusion was that the women wanted men but no longer needed them in the old dependent way, and therefore came out of even unsatisfactory experiences stronger and more satisfied with their own lives."

That just strikes me as typical chirpy drivel. There's an unfortunte reality that I'm well aware of, and I don't need to read pep talks about how actually it's just fine. It's banal to say that when bad things happen, you learn something and gain strength.

amba said...

True, that's the American way with everything. I've had people react that way to essays I wrote about the shock of turning 50 and "the death of youth" -- oh, it's really fine, aging is good.

But my friend is a subtle and classy thinker and writer, and you've dismissed her out of hand without taking more than a very superficial look. "Chirpy" doesn't begin to describe her. Her books were subversive enough to be quite disturbing to the very readers they were marketed to.

And I think the very fact that a lot of women are making the best of living without men is as sad as it is impressive.

Ann Althouse said...

"Chirpy" wasn't meant to characterize the author's tone, which I can't remember, but your statement about women -- that they "came out of even unsatisfactory experiences stronger and more satisfied with their own lives." This may be helpful to some women, but to me, it looks like rationalization. And I agree with the idea that it's often better to go it alone that to be in a bad relationship. But I'm not personally going to experience that as subversive. It's not a surprising insight.

rhhardin said...

chirpy drivel

The Shakespearean version is that men want to know things beyond the human conditions of knowing, and so succumb to skepticism ; and women want to love beyond the human conditions of loving, and so succumb to fanaticism ; two of Kant's errors of reason. (_Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare_, Stanley Cavell, introduction)

Anyway if you're marketing to women, go with the latter.

Barbara Feldon, Agent 99 in the wild hit _Get Smart_, wrote _Living Alone and Loving It_, which sort of gets sadder and sadder as you realize it's not working out for her. The reason it's sad is that her character in the series got it right, in always showing that she was satisfied with her man in the end, after he screws up, as he always will when he is sent on one quest after another.

That's love within human conditions. It had the entire male population of the US in love with her, and not because she's good looking, which in fact she's not. She simply did what every male wants : not nag when they screw up, but show she's satisfied with them. In return, quests become interesting to the man, and she becomes his queen.

Which, I think, is what it comes down to, and the various women's self-actualization books are displacements of. Being a queen.

Virtually Actual said...

What if many of the most competent, strong, and independent women choose to not to form families? What if the ability to do everything for yourself gives rise a preference for remaining free of all of the extra burden of taking care of the needs of others? What if ambition to excel in public life causes many women to embrace the simplicity and freedom of an independent private life?

This is all nonsense. I don't see the downfall of civilization as a possible result of any of your imagined what if scenarios. What if women remain free? Well, then they remain free. And, of course, these are perogatives that are granted to men without a second thought, yet men haven't stopped fathering children, have they?

Ann Althouse said...

I'm talking about women not having children! You don't see the problem? Of course, some women will have children, but not these women. Problem? I didn't use the exaggerated end of civilization rhetoric -- Wolf did. Just because it's not the end of it all, doesn't mean it's not a problem

amba said...

When I characterized Dalma Heyn's books as "subversive," I should have been more precise. They are subversive (and very disturbing) to women IN marriage or relationships. There's a sort of Pied Piper quality to what she writes. They somehow (I'm not quite sure how) stir the awareness of all that you're giving up, rearranging and suppressing in yourself to serve the form of a relationship that is actually unsatisfactory to you.

Dalma says this is why women are walking out (and it's a myth that most marriages are being broken up by men). Her conclusion is the unsurprising one that women have changed faster than men, but that instead of women changing back, more men will have to be changing forward. Not becoming wimps themselves, but taking pleasure in living with an independent and ornery being who doesn't wimp out herself.

Margaret said...

I looooove some of the comments here to the effect that women should be "careful what they wish for" because careers are so unfulfilling compared to family life. Yes, money, power, adventures, career, a chance to have an impact on society beyond the immediate concerns of family are all so very empty and depressing. That's why men are clamoring to get out of the workplace and take over the housework and childcare! /sarcasm

(It's also interesting that people opposed to feminism argue on the one hand that independence and ambition are pathetic and unfulfilling for women, and then on the other hand, that feminist women are "selfish" for only pursuing fulfillment. So which is it? Are we selfish or unfulfilled? Or are these people arguing that we are selfish but too dumb to realize that we would be more fulfilled without feminism?)

As for whether childlessness is a major societal problem -- meh. The world is more populated than ever and people seem to want to keep reproducing. The birthrate is certainly lower among the most educated women but I am confident that many bright and competent men and women will emerge from among the larger pool of people born to less advantaged backgrounds. In any case, if there is a problem, the solution is certainly not to turn our backs on the notion of women's rights and women's equal participation in the public realm. Why would I want to further a civilization if it didn't have room for me and other women to participate on an equal basis?

Naomi Wolf as a general matter seems to be something of a nitwit. I stopped paying attention to her long ago and she doesn't even seem to be taken that seriously by feminists.

TMink said...

I certainly agree that this is no time, and there is no reason to turn our back on equal opportunity and representation of women at work and having access to all aspects of our society.

But I have a great job, it pays well enough, it is interesting, and I help people. A part of me would give it up to do more fishing, play more golf, and work as a photographer.

But I stay happy in my job for my family. To let the children have good experiences, so that they can go to a good school, to pay for bikes and such. My wife was able to stay at home for the little kids first 4 years only to return to work recently.

She loves the adult time, the money, the challenges, but she misses the kids. I have more contact with the children now, I can because we are both bringing in money, and it is nice.

So I think it is complicated being either the working stiff or the stay at home parent. And most of us guys are not socially (and perhaps not neurologically) prepared to do the stay at home thing. Not all women are either.

I guess it is just more complicated and less gender baised an issue than the way it typically gets treated.

Trey

amba said...

Good ones, Margaret and Trey.

It's this business of panicking and pressuring women to change back rather than everyone to continue haltingly changing forward.

Which will involve, probably, a lot of women letting up some on the overcompensation for thousands of years of exclusion from public culture; no longer having so much to prove in that arena, since much has pretty quickly been proven. One thing driving my generation out of the home was a bursting sense of obligation to speak and do for all the silent, confined, and demeaned women of the past (and the many who still are in the present) -- to vindicate them.

amba said...

Not just silent -- silenced.