A Brilliant Idea

The garish similarities between Look’s 1960 piece and Esquire’s 2013 profile reveal a disheartening lack of progress in between. Male writers have had decades to remedy themselves, but still write jejunely about women, accentuating one isolated, exploitable trait (attractive, rebellious, sweet, rude, slutty, rich) for the sake of producing more easily understood subject matter. Until they learn (or at least try to learn) how to write about female subjects in a way that does not purposefully weave paternalistic generalizations into every paragraph, I propose a moratorium on this stagnant approach to literary writing. Let’s allow women to write about women for a little while. Maybe then we can swap the prevalent illusions of femininity for realistic portraits of women as complex human characters.
I hadn't realized there was a ban on women writing about women. I assume the suggestion is really that only women should write about women. (Especially when a magazine's readership is as obviously interested in complex human portraits as that of Esquire!)

Since we wouldn't want to put male writers out of work, I presume this means that an equal number of women writers for women's magazines will swap jobs with them. I can't wait for the next issue of Cosmopolitan. "Remember all those articles about sex positions we broadcast to everyone in line at the grocery store? Starting this issue, those articles are all written by men. Time to find out what they really want!"

Why, the idea is so brilliant I can't imagine why the magazine publishers haven't adopted it already. Think how much happier their customers will be when we give them what we think they need, instead of what they want.

Of course, it's possible consumers might react badly to being told they have to behave. No problem -- we have a mechanism for forcing good behavior now. We'll just have HHS issue a memo that requires your employer to make sure you are provided with complex human portraits, at absolutely no charge.

Seriously: the people who write articles like the one being complained about are dogs. I get it. Women should be treated with respect, even those disadvantaged by celebrity or tremendous wealth. I agree. This is why I do not read Esquire. Also, though, I think all the celebrity profiles the author cites as shining examples of how women do it better are still a complete waste of your time and energy. Instead of having women write more of them, why not stop writing them entirely?

Never read about a celebrity ever again. Read about math, or history, or musical theory, or astronomy, or something else that interests you. Read the journals of thought, or the great literature of old.

If you do that, you'll be a complex human character. If anyone ever decides to write about you, they'll find they have something to say.


Cass said...

I hadn't realized there was a ban on women writing about women.

We can always hope, Grim :D

Cass said...

OK I've read the article now. Skimmed it, actually.

I wish women writers could express what's wrong with the types of articles she's complaining about without producing irritating, dogma-laden prose like this:

Women are usually better than men at writing about women, because women have felt the distinct stab in the soul that happens when their gender is pulverized through oppressive language.

Reminds me of people who use "f***" as a verb, adjective, noun, whatever. It's like they don't know any other words except sexist, patriarchal, oppressive.

Sometimes a jerk is just a jerk :p Or, as you would say, a dog (though I think the world of dogs and hate to insult them by comparison).

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think we should let conservatives write about conservatives.

Hey...(tap tap tap)...is this mike on?

Grim said...


I love dogs too, at least the furry ones. Not so much the kind who would describe a lovely young lady as “a sexual prop used to sell movies and jeans.” I suppose there's some sense in which the claim may be accurate -- it may well be that some people who produce her movies or hire her to advertise their products see her that way. Even if it were accurate, though that doesn't make it right.


It's on. Fire away.