April 20, 2012

Have you seen the cover of Newsweek?

5 or 10 years ago, it was a routine, almost daily practice for me to wander around a bookstore and so I always knew what was on the covers of the usual magazines like Newsweek. You could catch my eye. Nowadays, my daily glancing about is done on line, and crafty editors can't grab me with striking covers. But I did notice this:

Now, that's really silly. Who is this "working woman"? I guess by "working woman," Newsweek means a fashion model. And for all the striving to convey sexuality, the particular woman — with her plank chest and clothes-hanger shoulders — epitomizes abstemiousness, not lust of any kind. Anyway, had I seen that on the newsstand, I would have laughed at the embarrassingly striving effort to lure me into checking out the article. Don't I want to know "Why Surrender Is a Feminist Dream"? Uh, no. I was with the radical feminists back in the late 1980s/early 1990s when it seemed very important to take "The Story of O" seriously. And to despise Katie Roiphe, by the way. Who is the author of the Newsweek cover story, though her name isn't on the cover.

Why did the feminists attack Roiphe back then? The daughter of a famous feminist, she'd come out with a book "The Morning After: Fear, Sex and Feminism" when she was only 26, undermining the work of feminists who'd strained to expand the category of behavior to which the term "rape" attaches:
Writing for The New Yorker, Katha Pollitt delivered a scathing review of The Morning After, writing, "It is a careless and irresponsible performance, poorly argued and full of misrepresentations, slapdash research, and gossip. She may be, as she implies, the rare grad student who has actually read 'Clarissa,' but when it comes to rape and harassment she has not done her homework."
Oh, but that was nearly 20 years ago. I haven't been keeping track of Katie Roiphe since then, though I see I have a tag for her. I don't remember mentioning her on the blog before, but obviously I have. Anyway, she's getting cranked through the Tina-Brownified Newsweek that I'm not going to read, but I did notice the Virginia Heffernan attack on Roiphe's cover story:
Tina, my onetime boss, from whom in the late 1990s I learned the dark arts of buzz production...
Were vibrators involved?
... loves to seduce and betray female writers. And she's got skills. As she once proudly told the editorial team at her short-lived magazine Talk, she likes to ask lady writers to deliver humiliating "personal histories" that feature self-loathing and lurid intimate disclosures, on the promise that they can publish anonymously.

Once the droning, predictable, scandalous articles are done—Daphne Merkin likes to be spanked!!!!!—Tina appeals to the writer's vanity. The article is terse and fearless and elegant! You're Joan Didion! (always Joan Didion). You must put your name on this!

Disgrace. You want to know about gender politics during this trumped-up "war on women"? That's one way power is wielded between women—the alpha girl feigns sympathy to get her henchwoman to confess or act out and then sits back and sneers—and it's no joke. 
I'm cutting a lot here. Please read the whole thing. Roiphe, per Heffernan, "sneers" at the "older, suburban, possibly Midwestern woman" who is titillated by this popular new porn book "Shades of Grey," and this supposedly entertaining sneering is leveraged by Roiphe's own sexual confessions:
Tina has forced Roiphe into this uncomfortable pose, and in public (does any woman really want to boast, "I'm more twisted and accustomed to sexual violence than anyone!"), and Roiphe comparably trusses up Newsweek readers. Over a series of bad-faith and gibberish paragraphs, she sets up the reader as a hayseed who is turned on by lite porn because she's never seen how they do it in Berlin or whatever; or—worse still—so unsuccessfully feminine and so outside of the charmed circle of female literary power that she's satisfied by regular guys who don't hit her. 
The real sadism, it seems, comes from the powerful editor (Brown) who once oppressed Heffernan, who longs to get the upper hand at long last. Now, that's lurid (but not at all sexy, unless you're way more into the world of publishing newsrags than I am).

Anyway, I'm reading Heffernan, because I wandered by Slate this morning and saw a piece that successfully caught my eye with the title "Why Is Virginia Heffernan Being Sexist Toward Katie Roiphe?" It was written by a character with the silly name J. Bryan Lowder. He says:
Heffernan suggests that Roiphe has been “humiliated” by the article, but, by my reading, it’s the former who’s actually out to humiliate the latter in some twisted form of victim-blaming. It’s as if Heffernan is saying, “Tina Brown editorially raped you, Katie Roiphe, so why don’t you just slink away in disgrace!”
Key words: by my reading. Heffernan had her reading and you, J. Bryan, have yours. And your reading is that her reading is not the right reading. Readings, readings, readings. If it's all readings, we can choose which one to read, can't we? And Heffernan is more readable. And she's got the inside experience with Brown. Meanwhile — I just got to the end of J. Bryan's cryin' and I see he's "a former student and research assistant of Roiphe’s." Ha. I stand by my choice of readings.


The Drill SGT said...

far too dark and twisty for me.

Both the article and every analysis, including yours, Althouse.

KJE said...

I'm not a dumb man and I enjoy reading the Althouse blog, but this post is almost inscruitable.

campy said...

I'm cutting a lot here.

Should've cut more.

Jim said...

Reminds me of an elderly joke.

Q: Who wrote the article?

A: Lowder.


A: Lowder!



Q: OH NEVERMIND. asshole...

rhhardin said...

Only women can maintain an interest.

That also characterizes women's magazines, which Newsweek appears to be one of.

Dark Eden said...


"What's that Rapemon?"

"Raperape Rapemon Ray-raype!"

"Roiphe's stuck in the vagina?"

"Rape Rape!"

"Let me get my sexual harassment forms and let's hurry over there!"

"Rape Rapemon Rape!"

rhhardin said...

Marge Piercy on the women's center

"Carnage in the fish tank"

maybe it's online..yes


ricpic said...

The surrender fantasy is feminine not feminist. Important to remember it's a fantasy and therefore can exist in the same feminine head that schemes to make the actual man in the actual world submit, with no cognitive dissonance whatsoever.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...


Ok, so what are we talking about, now?

What Someone thinks about what Someone Else thinks about what Another Someone Else thinks about Yet Another Someone Else Thinks?

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

It's not easy, writing for fame and fortune.

traditionalguy said...

This sounds like a fight over who gets emasculated first in this weeks WWF match.

I would put my bet down on the feminist wearing the bigger strap-on.

But as we learned from cock-fighting, it's not the size of the rooster, its the size of the fight in the rooster.

Bill said...

I'm guessing the Newsweek cover was meant to evoke the infamous Bizarre magazine cover by John Willie.


Christopher in MA said...

Hmm. I didn't know that background to Merkin's essay. It would make me hate Tina Brown, if gave more than a second's thought to her.

However, there's more to Daphne Merkin than spanking. Dreaming of Hitler is a collection of essays well worth reading, IMO.

Darrell said...

A beautiful post that only Ann Althouse could have written.
Thanks for not assuming we need a map to follow you.

Jim Hu said...

Salon weighs in by getting pushback from dominatrixes.


ed said...

Jesus H. Christ.

Every single woman in America needs about 20 years of frigging therapy.

Or a good thorough spanking.

FloridaSteve said...

"I'm cutting a lot here. Please read the whole thing."

Sorry but no thank you. That was painful enough.

edutcher said...

I see the destruction of Newsweek by Tina Brown is proceeding apace.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I agree with the Drill SGT and will add that this blog post seems like a waste of Althouses time and mine for slogging through it.

pdug said...

"And for all the striving to convey sexuality, the particular woman — with her plank chest and clothes-hanger shoulders — epitomizes abstemiousness, not lust of any kind."

Isn't that the point? The image is frigid, but that belies a deeper need to surrender to lust. A porn image wouldn't fit, so its a 'demure' slut, who still is there for the male gaze.

William said...

The brother of Daphne Merkin was a hedge fund trader involved in the Madoff scandal. It is important to keep in mind that whips, chains, and dungeons can serve a higher purpose than sexual gratification.

Portia said...

I have only one word to describe it:


Tarzan said...

The lady clearly feels strongly here.

About what, I'm not so sure.

Spanking, though. Gotta love that!

Darcy said...

I think her shoulders are beautiful. I don't know what a plank chest is but the photo suggest she has curves.

Anyway. My first thought on the headline and photo is that surrender should be everyone's dream. Surrendering to God, I mean. I think of surrendering to a man as spiritual, too. Though this whole discussion above smacks of woman still being in charge somehow, so my own reading would suggest: "you're doing it wrong".

Kirk Parker said...

Dittoes to edutcher @ 10:18am.

DrSquid said...

Sorry, you lost me at "Newsweek"

Brent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brent said...

I don't know what a plank chest is

It's the opposite of . . . ahem . . . this photo of our Professor

paul a'barge said...

Feminism == Sociopathology

rcommal said...

1990 [version]

[just sayin']

John Lynch said...

You read Newsweek?

Freeman Hunt said...

I like the Heffernan piece.

As for "Fifty Shades," what is going on? People really have such awful taste? Why would anyone even want to read it? It sounds like a smutty bore.

LakeLevel said...

So this is how feminists talk about sex. The same way they talk about everything else. Mounds and mounds of deconstructionist bullshit.

Saint Croix said...

I was with the radical feminists back in the late 1980s/early 1990s

Wow! Now that's a confession.

You've come a long way, baby.

Which is a campaign slogan from a hilarious cigarette ad.

(Not so hilarious if you think about lung cancer, I guess).

So much of life is recognizing the controls that other people are putting on you. And freeing yourself of those controls. And then recognizing that you are in some kind of loop where you spend so much time trying to free yourself of other people's controls that it's like your trapped in a devilish mindgame of your own making. Got to free myself of that shit, too.

Being free is tough, man. And it's not like I got cigarette ads from the 1960's to inspire me, either.

No, wait. I can be a cowboy.

Saint Croix said...

oh my god this is insane

Saint Croix said...

Did I get sidetracked? I am so out of control.

Thread highjack = crazy need for freedom. Discuss.

No, wait. You submissives need to stay tied to the course plan! Stay on point or you will be spanked!