Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The Undomestic and Me

Amanda ReCupido (I adore that name) asked me the Undomestic 10. A little sample below, but do go to her site to see what else I said, and to explore. Her blog is a wonderful place for smart and thoughtful women.

6.) How do media generally portray women? What is a good example of this?

You are probably white. It’s hard for you to be pretty and smart. You are skinny and employ a self-deprecating sense of humor that keeps you from being threatening. Still, no one can get close to you! (The Proposal, Ally McBeal, Gray’s Anatomy). If you are very smart and have a great job, you’ve repressed some elemental part of yourself that requires 1: confronting your mother, 2: giving up your lucrative job, and 3: using lots of money to travel to “simpler” places (the south of France, rural America, the “East”, take your pick) where you will be rejuvenated/fall in love at last (Baby Boom, A Year in Provence, Sweet Home Alabama). Even then, you are probably still white. If you are Black, you are urban and struggling but dignified and can whip out rejoinders that make gay men blush—but you have relationship problems and rarely get the main storyline. If you are Asian, you are quiet but very, very spiritual. Since you are also boring, you will probably die at some point—though gracefully—and everyone will feel bad and will learn an important historical lesson (Luan on The Young and the Restless, Miss Saigon). To counteract this sad stereotype, you are increasingly being given the role that the black girl originally had, except you are allowed to have more sex (Ally McBeal, Grey’s Anatomy). Every now and then, if you are Black, you get to be the spiritual one, but you too must suffer and often die. This is so your character can have “something to do” (Battlestar Galactica, ER). Real life is much more complicated, and fortunately, good novels allow for psychological complexity. Mind you—I don’t think the media does justice to men either.

Oh, this is fabulous! I have to go read the rest.

I just saw a bit of myself in Mary Cantwell's Manhattan Memoir. At some point later in the book she was writing about her ambivalence about being a "woman" or "sexy woman" in 1960s New York, and what that meant and required, and realized that she'd never thought of herself as gendered. As her father's daughter, working in a niche away from sexism, she thought of herself as "a Mary," a kind of brainy neuter. Bingo, I thought. To be a person rather than a category.
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