Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fetch Me My Fainting Couch!

This Washington Post editorial, nominally about swooning female Obama fans, has more lame gender stereotypes than I would have thought possible to cram into a single Op-Ed piece.

It's called "We Scream, We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get." As it's written by Charlotte Allen, the we means women in general. Well, I suppose women who like Obama, as opposed to all the other women who aren't really women, I suppose, who prefer McCain or Hillary or Alan Keyes. (Okay, I'm one likes Alan Keyes.)

Allen opens by noting a recent trend among female Obama fans: fainting at one of the man's rallies. She then cites one woman yelling out "I love you" at another campaign event. From this, she draws a simple conclusion: Bitches ain't shit.

"Women 'Falling for Obama,' " the story's headline read. Elsewhere around the country, women were falling for the presidential candidate literally. Connecticut radio talk show host Jim Vicevich has counted five separate instances in which women fainted at Obama rallies since last September. And I thought such fainting was supposed to be a relic of the sexist past, when patriarchs forced their wives and daughters to lace themselves into corsets that cut off their oxygen.

Yeah, you thought right. But just because someone has still fainted without wearing a corset, it doesn't disprove the truth about Victorian women fainting because they were clamping shards of whalebone around their midsection to appear unnaturally hourglass-shaped. I mean, being fatigued and overheated in a large crowd at a big, exciting public event has been known to cause a few people to pass out as well.

I can't help it, but reading about such episodes of screaming, gushing and swooning makes me wonder whether women -- I should say, "we women," of course -- aren't the weaker sex after all. Or even the stupid sex, our brains permanently occluded by random emotions, psychosomatic flailings and distraction by the superficial. Women "are only children of a larger growth," wrote the 18th-century Earl of Chesterfield. Could he have been right?

The most ludicrous thing about this article is how Allen pretends that these thoughts were inspired by women fainting at Obama rallies, as opposed to the other way around. What? A women fainted at a political event? I guess the Earl of Chesterfield, whose ludicrously misogynist and not particularly memorable quote I've long had memorized for no reason, was right all along!

I mean, clearly this is just a woman who loathes her own sex, for whatever reason (maybe she's religious!), and looks for any opportunity to "lash out" at her gender. This "some women are excited about Barack Obama" thing is a pretty poor excuse, though. I mean, women are actively engaged in politics and this is somehow a bad thing? I'd far prefer that the ladies be energized about Obama's campaign than any of the other pop culture ephemera that tends to occupy Americans of both sexes.

I'm not the only woman who's dumbfounded (as it were) by our sex, or rather, as we prefer to put it, by other members of our sex besides us. It's a frequent topic of lunch, phone and water-cooler conversations; even some feminists can't believe that there's this thing called "The Oprah Winfrey Show" or that Celine Dion actually sells CDs. A female friend of mine plans to write a horror novel titled "Office of Women," in which nothing ever gets done and everyone spends the day talking about Botox.

Seriously, now, this is just stupid. Plenty of men buy Celine Dion CD's and guys don't necessarily get all that much done while working than women do. Guess who invented Minesweeper? A man! I mean, how desperate do you have to be to make this case in the Washington Post? "Ugh, chicks are so lame. I mean, who watches 'Oprah', am I right? Up high!"

We exaggerate, of course. And obviously men do dumb things, too, although my husband has perfectly good explanations for why he eats standing up at the stove (when I'm not around) or pulls down all the blinds so the house looks like a cave (also when I'm not around): It has to do with the aggressive male nature and an instinctive fear of danger from other aggressive men. When men do dumb things, though, they tend to be catastrophically dumb, such as blowing the paycheck on booze or much, much worse (think "postal"). Women's foolishness is usually harmless. But it can be so . . . embarrassing.

What...the...fuck...He eats over the stove because he fears other aggressive men? Maybe he's just lazy. That's why I do it. I mean, she's just rambling now. What's the point of this digression? This column so far has said:

(1) Women pass out/yell silly stuff at Barack Obama rallies

(2) Women are pathetic

(3) Men are kind of pathetic too, but it's a rugged, more attractive kind of pathetic

Also, the notion that only a man would blow a paycheck on booze is just weird. Aren't there plenty of female alcoholics? I'm pretty sure I've met at least a few.

Let's continue:

Take Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign. By all measures, she has run one of the worst -- and, yes, stupidest -- presidential races in recent history, marred by every stereotypical flaw of the female sex.

Allen comes dangerously close here to admitting the truth, that she viewed Hillary's campaign almost entirely through gender stereotypes. Somehow, though, just like it's the fault of women that they have been pegged "the weaker sex," it's the fault of Hillary Clinton that everyone insist she stand in for all women and behave in a way that makes everyone maximally comfortable.

I mean, how did Hillary typify "every stereotypical flaw of the female sex"? How could anyone? Some of those stereotypes are contradictory!

Allen continues by saying Hillary's too dependent on her husband (whatever that means) and by calling her former campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, a "Latina queena." Charlotte Allen a nom de plume of Rush Limbaugh or what?

What is it about us women? Why do we always fall for the hysterical, the superficial and the gooily sentimental?

You don't. That's all in your head. I can honestly say that neither Barbara Bush or Margaret Thatcher fall for the gooily sentimental.

Take a look at the New York Times bestseller list. At the top of the paperback nonfiction chart and pitched to an exclusively female readership is Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love." Here's the book's autobiographical plot: Gilbert gets bored with her perfectly okay husband, so she has an affair behind his back. Then, when that doesn't pan out, she goes to Italy and gains 23 pounds forking pasta so she has to buy a whole new wardrobe, goes to India to meditate (that's the snooze part), and finally, at an Indonesian beach, finds fulfillment by -- get this -- picking up a Latin lover!

It's a tough job, psychoanalyzing an entire gender based on the most popular book on the paperback nonfiction chart. Hey, what's the #1 hardcover nonfiction bestseller this week? Why, it's Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism!" From this, I will conclude that the average American IQ hovers between 56 and 60 and that public outrage will cause the entire Whole Foods franchise to be legally outlawed by the end of the next week.

Then there's the chick doctor television show "Grey's Anatomy" (reportedly one of Hillary Clinton's favorites). Want to be a surgeon? Here's what your life will be like at the hospital, according to "Grey's": sex in the linen-supply room, catfights with your sister in front of the patients, sex in the on-call room, a "prom" in the recovery room so you can wear your strapless evening gown to work, and sex with the married attending physician in an office. Oh, and some surgery. When was the last time you were in a hospital and spotted two doctors going at it in an empty bed?

Lots and lots of guys watch "Grey's Anatomy." Several of its writers, directors and members of the shows creative team are men. How is its stupidity (and I'm not arguing with Char here) the fault of women again?

It just goes on and on like this. Allen identifies something she doesn't like and then says women are responsible for it because they are so stupid. Except her. She's one of the cool ones.

Women have lamer mental conditions than men. Women are worse drivers. She even says this! "The theory that women are the dumber sex -- or at least the sex that gets into more car accidents -- is amply supported by neurological and standardized-testing evidence." Is this kind of thing really still acceptable in mainstream discourse?

That paragraph, by the way, continues by presenting neurological evidence that comes nowhere near to proving that women are dumber than men. She closes with: "While the two sexes seem to have the same IQ on average (although even here, at least one recent study gives males a slight edge), there are proportionally more men than women at the extremes of very, very smart and very, very stupid." But that's not what she said! She said Women are the dumber sex!"

I honestly can't believe the Washington Post would print something so insipid. Presenting this as a worthwhile perspective on contemporary feminism is like asking Andrew Dice Clay to do the keynote at the 2008 National NOW Conference.

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