Normally you wouldn't catch me quoting anything by the chick-lit writing cliterati whose supposedly female-empowering storylines rarely rise much above the banal pathos of Cathy comics. I hate that shit. Lots.
It reminds me of my first trip to see male strippers as part of a group of bachelorette-partiers. This was our big chance to cast our very own exploitative and demeaning eyeballs on some writhing, objectivized manflesh and to make comments like "look at the pair on that one!" and so on. It was our turn to be the boys. Except what turned out to actually be the case were these really gross Chippendale dancers who acted out really creepy stripper scenarios such as "Cat Burglar" (look out, ladies! the announcer intoned - he's breaking in your window! he's coming in your house! as if that was the Sexiest Thing Ever instead of just completely freaking creepy) and "Cowboy" (he's gonna rope ya!). I mean, seriously. Most of the scenarios were based on fantasies of masculine control, dominance, and rape. And while it's understandable and wicked common (evidently say as many as 57% of all women have rape fantasies) for women to be attracted to and fantasize about men who are in control, is that really what women want out of a public spectacle like Chippendales? Some beefstick miming forced oral in your face? Seriously, that's the most common move in a Chippendales lap dance. You have no agency at a Chippendale show. None at all.
For my part, it just totally pissed me off. I sat there scowling and drinking a wildly overpriced whiskey sour while mentally comparing the present experience to a night I spent at Atlanta's infamous Gold Club. My crazy/outgoing/totally slutty friend had met a couple of guys when we were at the Highlander and she convinced them to take us there - at the time it was a pretty famous Mafia-run strip club frequented by ballers and rock stars. They bought us lapdances and sapphire martinis. I will say this about getting a lapdance from a girl: it is not degrading. I'm pretty sure it's not actually degrading to anybody - none of them seemed miserable to be working there, anyway, and it was novel, and sexy, and fun, and they were really graceful and kind of sweet. The Chippendale dancers seemed to be shooting for maximum humiliation and embarrassment - and to be fair, that seemed to be what a lot of the audience *wanted*, covering their faces and shrieking with giggles while some guy ground his meat and veg at their faces. In the clip I linked to above, you'll see how the male dancers control everything - where and when the women touch, everything. One guy actually picks a girl up, flips her over, and simulates all kinds of stuff on her while her arms and legs kind of flail around - and by my count, maybe one of his simulated acts would actually be enjoyable for the woman. If this is how far we've come on our long way, baby, count me the hell out.
A lot of chick lit strikes me as being just as gross as Chippendales shows. It's *supposed* to be empowering, girl-on-top, aces up - but instead it's just humiliating. It's feminist empowerment from the Mary Kay Saleslady Training Camp school of empowerment - which is mostly just sad and gross and a thinly modernized version of the ideal1950s woman. In the end those mainstream beach girlbooks are still all about being thin, married, preggo, and utterly conventional - with a quirky twist! Ickadoo. See also: yogurt commercials. And so many other things.
This thing I read on CNN yesterday looked like it was going to be in the same vein, so I came prepared to hate - and hate I did, especially lines like "We juggle jobs, mortgages, student loans, and cancer treatments with low-fat diets, low-impact aerobics, low-grade depressions, a strong sense of irony, a dark sense of humor, and a full-bodied cabernet." Most of it is the usual self-congratulatory bullshit that I associate with the kind of women who buy PT Cruisers (because they think it is artsy! and edgy! and they relate to every word of "Women Who Run With the Wolves"!) - yoga-doing yogurt-eating pseudo-bohemians with twee bumper stickers who secretly love Cathy comics, the Jonas Brothers, and have seen every episode of Survivor ever.
But at the end, it actually got pretty good - I liked her bulleted list of lessons. My favorite:
• What doesn't kill me does not make me stronger. It makes me anxious, bitchy, and vulnerable...but nobody wants to see that embroidered on a pillow.
It kind of made me feel better to read that. It's one of those things - I thought that the whole combo of anxious/bitchy/vulnerable was really idiosyncratic, and it's weirdly soothing to hear that it's actually pretty common. I also liked the Dorothy Parker poem - "Indian Summer" - that she quoted at the end:
But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!
Those, at least, are words I can live by.