3/03/2006

Juxta Position

At this month's Yulblog get-together, I had two books with me: Laura Kipnis' Against Love and Maureen Dowd's Are Men Necessary. For the record, I want to say that I'm not against love (nor is Kipnis, really) and I don't think men are unnecessary (which I realize isn't quite the same as saying unequivocally that they are necessary). Dowd's book came out last November and I was eager to read it if only for the title--a very saucy provocative one, don't you think? I haven't finished digesting it yet, but Rebecca Trister's review in Salon comes closest to my own feelings about the book. I had the Kipnis book with me because the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sex scandal play an important role in both books. It's almost as if among all the things America has experienced recently--the Gulf War, 911, Brad and Jen breaking up--the seminal event sparking American feminist thinking was one that could have easily remained from the public gaze had it not been for Ken Starr. Interesting, non? One of Kipnis' principle arguments, and one that resonates with me, is why are relationships considered something we need to work at? Aren't relationships about love? Pleasure? Yet, common parlance says that a good marriage takes work (watching Dr. Phil should put anyone off marriage and children). Kipnis places this observation in the context of adultery. With more marriages failing than not, and with a President caught and then forgiven for being in flagrante delicto, surely it's time to throw off the yoke of the tyranny of love and re-think our attachment to conjugal bliss. Down with love, indeed. (I'm eager to re-read Shulamith Firestone's book The Dialectic of Sex within the context of Kipnis' Marx-inspired view of love as surplus value). Dowd sees the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal a bit differently. Drawing from her memory of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas controversy, she calls attention to the fact that whilst feminists opposed Thomas precisely because of bad-boy behavior, feminists rolled over an forgave Bill his dalliance--Hillary included. "Even if I felt like raising a ruckus about Boys Nation, who would care? Feminism lasted for a nanosecond, but the backlash has lasted for forty years." The thing that resonates most for me in Dowd's book is her observation that we seem to have moved forward without having moved forward ar all. How *is* baring our breasts in Girls Gone Wild videos liberating? Why is our earning potential perenially stuck at 77% of what men earn? Why do we continue to covet scented candles (okay, the latter observation is mine). The questions these books raise are interesting--also interesting is that neither offer any prescriptives. A fellow Yulblogger had the book Search with him, and something in the small of my brain wanted to bring these three books together in some kind of gender politics face-off. In fact, the title of his book proves to be a presecriptive. Moreover, and not without irony, this entire post was enabled by the Google search engine. Thinking the dialectic just isn't what it used to be. (Thanks to Blork for the photograph.)

1 comment:

erict said...

"title of his book proves to be a prescriptive" - that's brilliant.