Sunday, April 23, 2006

Interlude on stereotypes

Reel fanatic reviews Thank You For Smoking, which has not yet made it to the UK so far as I know (and is not on Amazon UK's DVD section). The movie sounds as if it is funny at the level I would like, i.e. not aimed at 15 year olds and not being heavy handed. Added to that, Maria Bello and Rob Lowe are in it. In fact, I might even add the book, by Christopher Buckley, into my shopping basket. Amazon keeps telling me I should, in any event -- even though Reel Fanatic links to a blog entry by a couple of disillusioned former fans who didn't like Mr Buckley's talk/signing. And I hate smoking. While on the topic of not being politically correct, Sara Gran -- on her own blog this time rather than being interviewed on someone else's -- has joined the many other women-authored blogs in the USA indulging in the pastime of Caitlin Flannigan-bashing. As far as I can make out, CF is one of those women who comes along every few years and tells other women to spend their lives being subservient to men rather than being independent. When I was younger I used to be incensed by this kind of person. Then I learned to ignore them. These days I have a sneaky, shameful hankering not to have to earn my own crust if someone would do it for me (they aren't lining up). But I guess I'd then have to learn about things like make-up, how to do my nails, and accessories, which does not seem worth the effort. (;- ) ) Sara Gran quickly nails the fundamental weakness of CF's argument of "telling other women not to work and to raise their kids themselves... as she's writing books and a nanny is watching her kids." She also makes the point made by others that CF is being hired by male magazine editors to write her material. She says that this misogynistic impulse reflects "the world I grew up in; one where women were expected be accessories to the artist, never the artist themselves". This is the world I grew up in, too. But Sarah doesn't end at this usual point. Instead, she says: " Fine, yeah, cry me a river: I had more or less every other advantage a person could possibly have otherwise, so let's not feel to bad about that. But not everyone has it as easy as me. Some people need all the encouragement they can get in life, and they might look to these very mainstream publications to help with that." This is just so right. I didn't have "every other advantage" when I grew up, but I had the crucial ones of a system sufficiently enlightened to provide me with opportunity -- a good education, leading to a good job for which I use my brain, and which enables me to support myself and my family. These days, it is not so easy. We haven't yet got to the situation of the young post-revolutionary workers described by Pasternak in Dr Zhivago, but I concur with Sara when she ends her post with a comment about the way in which mainstream media perceives women by hiring a writer like Caitlin F: "Maybe the solution is to stop pretending that these are general-interest publications, and for women to make their own magazines--but isn't that awfully third-grade? It just seems like we should all be past this now, and I don't understand why we're not. " In the UK, "laddish" magazines sell strongly compared with "meterosexual" offers -- the new man either doesn't exist in enough quantities to keep a magazine afloat, or he doesn't want to be seen buying it. Show me a mainstream magazine branded "for women" which is not full of diets, handbags and Kate Moss -- in the UK there are none. I think that the answer is not to buy magazines aimed at men if you're a man or women if you're a woman, but stick to "topics" (current events, science, movies and so on). Otherwise, you just get gender stereotypes reinforced, and end up actually wanting a new handbag every week. Though where all this handbag obsession comes from, and where Caitlin Flannigan fits into all this, confuses me too. Maybe a zine-blog combination could develop from a round-up concept, such as Natalie Bennett's "Friday Femmes Fatales" , now up to no. 53.