Hope everyone had a great President’s Day! Mine was spent laid up with a stomach bug, so that was a bummer, but in not being able to finish out my extensive project list, I did manage to catch up on blog reading.
In doing so, I found this gem of a whinefest through Roy Edroso from Mark Judge. It’s a variation on an old-but-goodie from the conservative backlog, the argument that the whiner’s rights are being trampled because he does not have the submissive beauty to wait on him that he’s entitled to, due to FEMINISM. It’s just a mildly confusing variation, because it wildly misuses the term “cool”.
He starts by taking Kay Hymowitz’s equally insipid whine that men aren’t Men anymore, and blames, of course, the only people that can ever be blamed for what men choose to do: Women. If men choose to watch Adam Sandler movies and fart openly, this is, of course, women’s fault. And—get this—it’s apparently because women aren’t submissive enough to male tastes.
These days the problem isn’t as much pre-adulthood males as it is uncultured people–including women. When I was in high school at Georgetown Prep, a Jesuit school that prided itself on producing men who could both lay down a block and conjugate Latin, we had a term for well-rounded women: “cool chicks.” Yeah, she’s a cool chick. A cool chick would go to a baseball game with you, maybe liked a cool band, and also had a favorite museum and novel. They were cool because they weren’t just one thing–the Lena Dunham hipster, the scholarship-obsessed athlete, the Ally Sheedy Breakfast Club basket case. Do cool chicks exist anymore? Is there a Dianne Keaton of this generation?
Obviously, the contention that women aren’t well-rounded these days is delusional in the extreme, and the conservative complaint is generally more that women are too well-rounded with their belligerent demands to “have it all”, i.e. what men have. His lie about desiring “well-rounded” women is betrayed in the women he compares, Lena Dunham and Diane Keaton. While both are awesome, accomplished women, Dunham is, at the ripe old age of 26, a writer, director, and actress, whereas Keaton was only one of those when she was that age. (Keaton was also the 70s version of a hipster, starting major fashion trends with her convention-bucking personal style.)
Methinks the issue here is that Judge has confused Keaton with her most famous role, that of Annie Hall. Annie was what he seems to be describing as a “cool chick”, i.e. she had somewhat ambiguous tastes and was aimless, and thus seemed to be available for Alvy to mold to fit his desires. Happy to do what you want all the time and take on all your tastes as her own, because she’s not busy—unlike those hipsters and athletes that Judge derides—doing her own thing and confident in her own tastes. Except that if you remember the movie, even Annie gets sick of being a tagalong. This reading reminds me of all the people who misread “Casablanca” as some great story of eternal love instead of a rumination on loss and letting go.
Indeed, I don’t think Judge would think much of the real-life Keaton, who is exactly the kind of woman he dismisses—she’s a go-getter who used her extensive acting career to also get into directing and producing. She’s got exactly the kind of strong identity Judge finds so repulsive.
Tossing the word “well-rounded” around doesn’t change the meat of this complaint, which is an anger that feminism has freed women to have passions. Women don’t just like a cool band anymore; if they’re fans, they know about tons of bands and may even—gasp!—know way more than you about the history of music and the state of contemporary pop music. Or, god forbid, they may follow in the evil, evil footsteps of Lena Dunham and decide to become creators, starting bands and learning to play instruments, instead of just standing back and mildly liking a band (but not so much that they can’t change their opinion if you demand it). Women don’t just go to a baseball game with you and, to quote a commenter at Roy’s blog, “will fetch him a hot dog at a baseball game.” Many of them are themselves jocks, perhaps going to college on an athletic scholarship. What’s amusing about all this is that only complete idiots think the definition of “cool” is being shallow and passive so as to not be too threatening to an insecure man. But I’ll just quote the commenter—named chuckling—in full:
Anyway, interesting the dude’s definition of cool when applied to a young woman: It’s not someone who’s smart, well-educated, cultured, ridiculously successful in television, probably crown fucking princess of the New York indie celebrity scene — no, none of that is cool — but someone who will fetch him a hot dog at a baseball game. Of course pretending to share the interests of some conservative ass and smiling as he drones on and on about whatever infuriates him at the moment is a more achievable aspiration than being Lena Dunham for most women, but unfortunately it’s pretty much nobody’s definition of cool.
My main objection is that it’s not really that much more achievable to be Judge’s definition of a “cool chick”, because while it certainly requires less upfront effort to be a dabbler who doesn’t know or do too much that could threaten an insecure man, it is hard on one’s soul. It’s also kind pointless, because the kind of man this sort of thing attracts isn’t worth having. I agree whole-heartedly with Dr. Nerdlove when he argues that being passionate about things improves the quality of people you meet: “By following your passions, you increase the likelihood of meeting people who share your interests and values; people who, in other words, you are more likely to be compatible with.”
I’m skeptical that many men are retreating from having interesting lives into a world of fart jokes and Adam Sandler movies because they’re furious that women have started to have tastes and ambitions of their own. (Mostly, I just think that X percentage of any population are idiots, and the Sandler fans are representative of the idiot population of men.) But even if it is true, why on earth would a woman want to attract such easily butthurt men into her life? Being with a man who needs you to be small so he can feel big sounds like a life of walking around on eggshells, afraid to express an opinion without having to spend hours soothing his insecurities as punishment. Not only can following your star attract more people, including men, into your life who find your passions attractive, but it can weed out the idiots who find smart and passionate women threatening out. Win-win.
And since I will invariably be accused of saying this, let me be clear: I’m not saying that one should never go along with your partner to do something he likes that isn’t necessarily something you care about that much. I recommend, like with food, at least trying it once. You might just find that you like it. I just think it needs to go both ways, and that the passions and enthusiasms of both people in a relationship should be honored and respected, and that if a woman goes along with a man’s stuff, he should return the favor. The problem here is that Judge is proposing that women have a few things they like, but don’t have tastes that are so passionate that it prevents living their lives as tagalongs. That’s depressing.
Apologies for the heteronormativity of this and posts like it. It’s a product of refuting conservatives who are focused on their anger at straight women for rejecting a life of subservience. The attacks on gay people have a different flavor to them.