Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Women Destroyed

Sasha Frere-Jones considers the appeal of Amy Winehouse in this week's New Yorker, an article notable for the fact that Winehouse's actual music receives more attention than does her substance abuse and personal life. Americans just love self-destructive women, don't we? Sure, David Hasselhoff gets drunk and makes out with a cheeseburger on a bathroom floor and we all laugh, but we don't send the tabloid press out to stalk him. Meanwhile Brittney Spears shaves her head and it's a clear sign that she's come completely undone (not that she isn't undone) and something that deserves 24-hour coverage. In other words, men get drunk and make mistakes, while women become deranged and need to be institutionalized.

There's really nothing new here; Western culture has always provided correctives to any power women have acquired or wielded. Male Medieval mystics became saints, while the female mystics were burned for heresy. Some have said the Salem witch trials were in part caused by a demographic imbalance that favored the women. "Hysteria" was invented as a disease that only affects women (it used to be called "female hysteria," and the term is derived from the Greek word for "uterus") in the late 19th century. Women who were considered "sexually dis-functional" were so diagnosed. The rise of frigid women conveniently coincided with increases in female education and literacy, the beginnings of the women's suffrage movement, and an increase in the numbers of working women who came from immigrant backgrounds. Whenever women appear too powerful, it seems to be important to remind ourselves that women are also crazy.

In Hollywood as in porn, it's the starlet who drives the machine. The female star appeals to both genders, while the man appeals mainly to women. Sure, the men get paid more to "carry" a movie, but it's the star power of the women that dives all ancillary marketing. They sell clothes, cosmetics, magazines. They sell sex. And that's why they must be taken down, and why nothing sells more magazines than their "hysteria." Women themselves participate in this. The tabloids that weekly expound upon the travails of Brittney and Lindsay are aimed at and purchased by a female audience. We don't want them to have what we can't, I suppose.

In short, Amy Winehouse smoking crack belongs to a continuum where women are raised up so that their downfall can be an example to us all. Perhaps Hillary's implosion has something to do with this. Her campaign got a burst of energy once she cried in public, but in general we don't believe that she'll fall apart, don't believe that she'll self-destruct, don't believe that she will suffer from a malady of the uterus. And so in the end she can't win.

4 comments:

TW said...

I have observed this same thing throughout my life; women in power are criticized and "corrected", as you said, often through our language describing them. I have heard the most derogatory and ignorant terms used to describe strong women; I won't write them here, but I'm sure you know what I mean. Think of the Martha Stewart, Oprah, or Hilary, and the words you frequently see in the media, or hear among supposedly polite conversation about these women.
The very traits that powerful men use to succeed are somehow considered un-feminine; this may have more to do with our puritanical, misogynistic culture than anything. Unfortunately, since the beginning of the Iron Age, power has not been measured in terms of character, cooperation and intelligence nearly as much as in terms of power-over and domination. This very distorted value is at the root of our ecological crisis and our wars. We mold the land to our selfish use, and the weaker cultures are consumed by the stronger ones, regardless of their intrinsic value. These habits, given the very nature of the earth and our place in it as living, physical and spiritual creatures, is bound to eventually fail. Domination, a masculine trait, may eventually lead us back to a simpler time, where the true strength of cooperation and nurturing are once again valued more highly than acquisition and global dominance.
Women like Hilary understand the game; they’re playing in today’s world with today’s necessary skills; unfortunately, it’s still a boys’ club, and will be as long as we approach the world in a manner that values brute force and violent acquisition over cooperation and intelligence. There are answers out there, in the grassroots communities. We need to listen to the earth, and consider the bigger picture.

We have taken too much from this world, most of it by force. Force will eventually rob all of us.

tunsie said...

I work with very mature young beautiful women.they r successful in their own right.but i don't see criticism in any way.I would rather work with women then men,they don't make decisions based on appendages.they r very private people.they and i appreciate people who r not with a hidden agenda.we look away from people who r constantly putting other people down 2 make themselves look better.CAN WE ALL GET ALONG>tunsie.tunsie.tunsie

tunsie said...

I don't know if jealosy has anything 2 do with it.but i am very happy who become succesful on their own.MAN OR WOMEN.i don't downplay a womens success because she is a women,and i can understand it can be difficult at times for both men and women.i think that people who try 2 criticize anyone 4 doing well has some issues that medication might help.take care people.get on with your own life and stop worrying about other people,because believe me,we don't CARE WHAT U THINK.tunsie.tunsie.tunsie

tunsie said...

I knew a women who had a little shop.and in her store she had a playpen in her shop 4 her infant son.and there were times when u went in her shop and she would have a sign hanging.BABY SLEEPING.and people would shop and whisper as not 2 wake the little baby[with chubby cheeks].i thought that was beautiful.tunsie.tunsie.tunsie