Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Radical Roundup: Straights, Gays and Everyone In Between

Via the H-Women listserve: Congratulations to Ellen Samuels University of Wisconsin, Madison) for winning
the 2011 Catharine Stimpson Prize for Outstanding Feminist Scholarship given by the University of Chicago Press (forthcoming, Signs 2011).
The citation reads, in part:

Professor Samuels’s award-winning essay, "Examining Millie and Christine McKoy: Where Enslavement and Enfreakment Meet," is impressively
interdisciplinary....Physically joined at the pelvis, the twins were objects of curiosity, inspection, and invasion from the moment of their birth. The article situates medical and lay interest in their unique pelvic anatomy within the larger contexts of the nineteenth-century freak show, the pathologization of black female sexuality, and the complex dynamics of American enslavement and emancipation. Advancing a re-visionary understanding of the McKoys, the author illuminates dimensions of agency and subjectivity largely overlooked or misunderstood by historians to date.

Born enslaved, the McCoy sisters, pictured at right in demure Victorian garb, were treated shamefully by the people who owned, and then exploited them for their uniqueness. Eventually they became vocalists, becoming famous as "The Two-Headed Nightingale." Congratulations Ellen!

When Lesbians Walked The Earth: The online journal Trivia: Voices of Feminism (originally founded as a print journal in 1982) has dedicated its most recent issue to the theme "Are Lesbians Going Extinct?" If the answer is yes, then the up side is that we grow ever-more valuable as collectibles! At any rate, it's a great bunch of essays, edited (I think) by Lise Weil of Goddard College. I equivocate on this point because it seems, from the website, that in true feminist fashion there is a collective at work on many of the issues. Dedicated to Mary Daly, Trivia will have a follow up volume on the same theme in September 2010. And if you are a lesbian of a certain age, here's a treat: an essay by Elana Dykewomon!

Take A Knee, Heterosexuality: If lesbians are going extinct, straight people aren't doing much better. Ever since it made its debut, I have looked forward every Sunday to the New York Times "Modern Love" feature. The only problem is that it has been getting dull, the stories about love simultaneously stranger and more prosaic. One suspects that, as people with less and less unique lives get contracts to write memoirs, "Modern Love" has succumbed to placements from the agents of people who have been encouraged by their 800 television channels to believe that almost anything is worth a mention: adopting outside the United States, putting the dog down, losing weight, struggling with the demands of your special needs child, house training your dog, being poor, toilet training your child, being rich, dropping out of college to go to Nepal and have an affair with a sherpa.......

And yet today's horror story, "Competing In My Own Reality Show" is both just twisted enough to command my attention and is a perfect example of why memoirs should be embargoed until readers develop better taste; or woman writers rediscover feminism, and/or learn that self-disclosure is not the same thing as insight into the human condition. Diana Spechler recounts the shallow story of how:

1. She became attracted to a student, embarking on an affair with him when she learned that he had been chosen for one of those reality shows where a "bachelor" is presented with numerous women, one of whom will be picked by the producers to be his wife. Competing, we learn at the end, may have been her sole motivation all along. (Self-disclosure: in my day, when people said "bachelor" they meant homosexual. I'm just sayin', Diana.)

2. She fell in love with Mr. Shitbird, despite the fact that he was so narcissistic and empty-headed as to genuinely think it was a good idea to marry someone chosen for him by television producers - and have an affair with Sprechler while he was doing it.

3. She fell further in love with this caricature of a man even as he continued with this process, saying things to her like "You should apply to be my wife" -- and that she would probably never be picked. Nevertheless, she "fantasized about applying," realizing only after talking over one of the actual candidates with him that she had not truly captured his heart to date because "I had made myself too available. Of course my rivals now had an edge. Because they weren't infatuated, they could easily act aloof." (Another theory? The female contestants suspected he was a homosexual, and didn't care. This reality show was only their desperate attempt -- not to find an actual husband but to break into "the business" by getting on the cover of US magazine.)

And besides, Diana, your real mistake was not seeing a therapist immediately after a) sleeping with one of your students; and b) becoming his domestic servant and f**kbuddy as he trolled for a wife on a television show. Before would have been even better. Reader, don't miss the part about her folding his underpants while he is filling out questionnaires from women who, as he tells her enthusiastically, "have standards."

4. After he gets kicked off the show (perhaps because he is a homosexual? As an active homosexual, I feel I can continue to venture this hypothesis), their relationship begins to peter out. The night before Valentine's Day, he admits (drum roll): "I don't love you." Gosh, really? And guess what?! Sprechler comes to the conclusion that it was all her fault! But not because she apparently has no self-esteem. No! It is because she is too competitive for her own good! Don't you just hate that in women? As she concludes,

In the weeks that followed, I spent a lot of time crying to friends, hypothesizing that he had signed the contract not because he longed for love (Please! Love?) but because his narcissism knew no bounds.

Of course, I was being unfair. After all, I had made myself the star of my own reality show. I had signed myself up, donned my blinders, and set my sights on winning.

And Last But Not Least: Michael Wolff on the Helen Thomas beheading.


Historiann said...

ZOMG. The only thing worse than that Times article is that it appears under the "Modern Love" column. You're right: mere exposure does not lead to introspection, apparently.

Read a review of a book I think you'll like, if you haven't read it already: The Professor by Terry Castle. Here's a rave review in today's Denver Post:

I'm picking up a copy of it tomorrow.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

The NY Times is a fucking disgrace.

Susan said...

Sometimes I like these, but this one? Ick. Her awareness is still so limited. Doesn't make me want to read the novel she's written, either!

Lauren said...

A tragic and hilarious nonlove story.

Katrina said...

Speechless after reading that story. Was it supposed to be a parody? If that was sincere, it was godawful, and "narcissist" - that would be her. I'd be embarrassed to have published that.

Isabel said...

I am conflicted about the Modern Love column in general. Regardless of the content of the story (prosaic or otherwise), some of them are really well written and that's what counts. Still, I'm disturbed by the exhibitionism inherent in the form. (Katrina: I'd be embarrassed to have written any of them!)

To criticize the writers one way or the other for their judgment in these affairs is to miss the point, however. What these columns illustrate, over and over again, is that hormones make people do crazy stuff. Shouldn't we have made peace with that by now?

Sammy said...

Spot on commentary on this atrocious Modern Love column. It looks like the original boyfriend, whom Ms. Spechler derides as an obstacle, dodged a real bullet here.

Anonymous said...

"Modern?" Sounds anything but to me. It does have a high "creep out" factor.

The NYT continues its downward slide...