Insidious Adjectives: How the Gender Debate is Twisting Powerful Parts of Speech

gender debateThere’s a new insidiousness to the gender debate, and it’s all about adjectives: It’s gradual, it’s oh so very subtle, but it’s also incredibly harmful. In essence, the debate about gender roles has been minimized to just a few, “petty” parts of speech…harmless, until you read past the diction and really start thinking about what these parts of speech really mean to the future of male vs. female.

In any well-thought out argument, the main thing you focus on (if you wan’t to convince anyone of anything) is facts. Appeals to logic and reason with a little stab at emotion fill most of your argument. Fill up your persuasive argument assignment in first-year undergrad speech class with emotional appeals and there will be big fat red comments scrawling across every margin of your hard copy: “Cut the flowery language, the emotional appeals, the adjectives.” I know because I was an English major, I fought with my professors over my love for adjectives and every time I lost. I loved those little guys, they were so…so…well, descriptive. There was always just one more I could throw in, one more that I thought captured precisely what I wanted to say…it was perfect, it was…too much. The issue with adjectives, by their own definition of their function, is that they’re modifiers, they’re add-ons that carry with them subjective value judgments–not any real, concrete information like nouns and verbs. A movie isn’t a bad or boring movie until you throw an adjective in front of it. A person is really just a person until you describe them with adjectives: beautiful, smart, dull, annoying, fun…Ask Voltaire or Twain about those modifiers and you’ll find they agree with me. Voltaire said adjectives are the “enemy” of the noun, and Twain? He wasn’t so subtle of course: “If you catch an adjective, kill it.”gender debate

What’s the big deal? Adjectives are important, but they’re also dangerous because they aren’t facts or actions that are unchanging or unchangeable. They are descriptions that fluctuate and rely upon the person who is using them to garner their value. I may describe The Notebook as a stupid film because that’s my personal judgment value of it, but I know most of the female gender would vehemently disagree with me, and they can because adjectives are just descriptions–not truths. So, how does all of this grammar nit-picking relate to the gender debate? You may not have noticed it because that’s the whole point of an insidious attack, but the gender debaters have taken a step back from their bleeding heart podiums and resorted to just whispering subtleties into the audience’s ears. What are they whispering? They’re whispering that certain descriptive, modifying words to describe men are greater than adjectives describing many women and unless women show a marked interest and achievement in justifying that these adjectives also describe themselves—well, then they are failing as a modern woman. They’re attributing negative value judgments on typically female adjectives, while making male adjectives a thing of value, presenting their adjective-packed argument as poignant proof women need to start not only “leaning in,” but by gosh, throwing a punch and climbing on top as well. Just listen:

Leslie Bennetts is a writer who has spent much of her working life interviewing famous women. She is also a wife and working mum, writing for Vanity Fair, Elle, The New York Times, as well as publishing her own book, The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? (which, you can purchase new and used for $1.99 btw on Amazon–I didn’t know you could buy a book for two dollars but apparently Bennetts made it happen!) If you can’t tell from her book title, she isn’t much of a supporter of the “you can’t have it all so choose a path” stance for women juggling modern, manic life. Her article “The Scarlet A: Why Women Don’t Say They’re Ambitious” is all about the phenomenon she began to notice throughout her career interviewing wildly successful women: That is, that ladies don’t really like describing themselves as “ambitious.”

She cites many examples: Condoleeza Rice refusing to admit she was smart in an interview with Oprah, Oprah herself underscoring her ranking as one of the richest women in America with her comment “I don’t think of myself a businesswoman,” and even Hilary Clinton’s self-professed, shock and disbelief when she heard she was to be appointed to secretary of state under Obama’s administration. You could see their subtlety about describing their own success as humble, you could describe it positively as hard-working, industrious, even admirable, or modest, but Bennetts chooses to describe them as passive, reactive, and overly self-effacing–negative adjectives = negative behavior = negative personality types. She says women have been trained to believe that power, ambition, and a take-charge attitude desexualizes them. But have we ever stopped to think why ambitious, powerful, and zealous are adjectives greater than humility, selflessness, and hardworking? Because, after all, all of those words are just adjectives. They’re all value judgments with no real truth behind them beside the value the speaker/writer gives them. Perhaps the issue is not that women aren’t stepping up, it’s that the way culture is describing where women are now has merely created the appearance that women have anywhere to step up from. I didn’t think Condoleeza Rice, Oprah, or Hilary Clinton’s positions could exactly be called “underdogs.” That is, I didn’t think so until Bennetts began to describe them as such.

gender debate

Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood seemed rather horrified at why women are “failing” at pronouncing their pride, shouting their success, acknowledging their ambition, and taking over: Quoted in Bennetts article, Feldt says there is really “no law or formal barrier…keeping us [women] from achieving equality and justice except our own unwillingness to ‘just take them.'” Unable to believe that women don’t want these “powerful” adjectives to describe themselves, Feldt can hardly contain her disgust: “Millions of dollars are being spent to help recruit, train, and support women to get elected, and yet they’ve [women] scarcely moved the dial at all…the problem [is] not that the doors [are] not open. The problem [is] that women [are] not walking through those doors and that just blew me away” Feldt said. I still don’t see a problem though, maybe the majority of women have figured out the real truth, that adjectives like ambitious, and powerful  aren’t really any greater than the adjectives they currently embody (like humble, selfless, modest) and they’re actually perfectly okay with it.

Because many women believe power, or the admittance of having power desexualizes them, Bennetts says that many of those women choose to gain their power sort of second-hand–through a marriage. She warns that such an abdication of personal power can only end in being let down, for, Bennetts highlights, when we rely on other people (specifically spouses or children) to give us power, we risk everything on someone we cannot control. Her case in point? Grace Kelly. Bennetts interviewed Kelly twenty years after her marriage to The Prince of Monaco. Thinking she was going to interview a real-life fairy-tale story, Bennetts was shocked to discover Grace Kelly was instead a woman wrought with “sadness and regret.” Kelly regretted the loss of her acting career, the loss of “command[ing] respect for her own work, earn[ing] her own keep, and [being] acclaimed for her own efforts.” Bennetts highlights Kelly because her life is something of a posterchild for the argument women should chase those “better,” usually ‘male” adjectives. Male adjectives give you autonomy, power, a sense of self, pride, direction, while female adjectives, Bennetts says, make you passive, reactive, self-effacing, powerless. A pretty good argument for self-empowerment, yes? Yet, Bennetts missed that Grace Kelly, in all her regret for giving up her career to “rely on someone else,” was still relying on something outside of herself for her sense of power and happiness. No, it wasn’t a someone (i.e. her husband, children) it was a something: her acting career– and the loss of which concluded in the same result of regret and sadness.gender debate

So, what’s the answer? If male and female adjectives both get you nowhere, what do you do? You don’t listen to this insidious new attack, because “adjectives are frail; don’t ask them to do more work than they should.” How you describe yourself with whatever adjectives you choose still misses a very important part of speech, that is the noun: you. Who you are is what really matters. Being powerful and ambitious isn’t greater than any other way you could describe yourself–those adjectives are just modifiers to whatever you really are. If you’re modest, humble, selfless, and happy about it, that’s far, far more powerful than the most ambitious person in the world who is content at nothing, proclaims his/her own glory at every turn, and in the end will lose him/herself when the next ambitious self comes along to trump their grandeur. Relying on ambition and power is just as dangerous as relying on a person. Don’t believe the lie that any one adjective is better, pay more attention to the nouns that embody the adjectives. And, if you need something to glean your power from, I would much rather rely on someone I love and who will love me back than something that merely describes me.

– <3 A. 

Guest Pinner: If Nellie Bly Pinned

nellie bly repins

nellie bly repinsNellie Bly images and signature via| repins via | via |via | via | via | via

Have you seen the new(ish) Channing Tatum movie Side Effects? I won’t give anything away but I was intrigued–and not just by him because he isn’t in the movie all that long, and that’s all I’m gonna say about it–but when I was reading up about Nellie Bly, heralded as the world’s first (female) investigative journalist, and her primary investigative success “Ten Days in a Madhouse,” I was even more intrigued by this real-life version of that flick **the movie is a little slow but watch it! It’s got some serious twists you won’t see coming**. I stumbled across her by chance ironically right after watching Side Effects and I wondered how I’d gone so long without hearing about this pretty spectacular lady.

In 1885, Nellie Bly read a Pittsburgh newspaper article entitled “What Girls are Good For.” The article denounced female aspirations and education, and 21 year old Elizabeth Cochran wrote a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch denouncing him for publishing such views on women. The editor was so impressed by Elizabeth’s writing voice that he eventually offered her a full-time job writing under the pen name “Nellie Bly.” Readers of the “Dispatch” weren’t as impressed as the editor was though, and Nellie ended up getting the typically “female” topics of gardening, fashion, and gossip to avoid public backlash about a female reporter reporting on topics she couldn’t possibly know anything about. Disgusted by the inane topics she was forced to write about, Nellie turned in her resignation, and, a few years later, landed a position writing for the “New York World.” Because of some investigative work she had done in Mexico between writing for the “Dispatch” and the “World,” Bly was tasked to go “undercover” into a madhouse for women. Nellie feigned insanity, convincing doctors that she should be put into the asylum on Blackwell’s Island in order to investigate the living conditions for “patients” of the hospital. What she discovered was horrifying: While the doctors and nurses ate and lived like royalty, the patients were fed off flour soaked in water, kept tied up like animals, and treated like hardened prisoners. She spent ten days in the asylum and then was rescued by agents from the “World.” Her articles written about the atrocities committed at the hospital resulted in public outcry and new laws mandating better treatment and more money allocated for women at similar institutions.

Her ideas for her articles were fascinating, bold, fearless, and completely unique. In the late 1800’s she proposed that she could travel around the world faster than Jules Verne’s main character in Around the World in Eighty Days. The “World” sponsored her trip and even started a reader guessing game as to what day she would return back to the States in order to keep interest in Bly’s voyage. Bly landed back on American soil just seventy-two days after starting her voyage. The woman was incredible, and not just because it was the 1800’s, but because she had incredible passion for her writing and for writing about things that truly mattered. She was creative, cutting edge, intelligent, and couldn’t be intimidated. If Nellie Bly pinned I’d be all over her boards because who knew what the next thing Bly would do?

bio info via

– <3 A. 

Other Guest-Pinners:

annecollage4   beatrixpotterpinterest   clarabartonguestpinner

  Anne of Green Gables             Beatrix Potter                     Clara Barton 

A New Version of Freedom

new version of freedomEmily Matchar, writer for The Atlantic and author of the just-released book, New Domesticity recently wrote an article about a surging revival of interest in traditional  family life where the children of Baby Boomers (us “doomed” Millennials) are leading a subtle rebellion against the world our parents created by beginning what she describes as a “tangible shift in the way educated young women” are approaching issues like family, work, and homemaking. In her article, she explores the complex reasons why she says “Feminists [are becoming] Housewives.” She’s quick to point out this movement is nothing like traditional ideas of, well, traditional (cue June Cleaver image), nor newly created stereotypes of the Stepford Stay-at-home-wife/mom. These women who are choosing to return to a “housewife” label aren’t wealthy white girls who came from money, perhaps married into even more money, and are strolling around at home working out in LuLu Lemon, dropping the kids off in an Escalade, and struggling only to choose a gel manicure color. Instead, Matchar says that “across different social and cultural groups, there’s been a collective return to domesticy” for a variety of reasons. This movement isn’t about women not wanting to work outside the home, about masochist husbands who want to leave a list of chores at home and return after 5:00 p.m. expecting dinner on the table. “It’s about the grown children of harried Baby Boomers who, having seen his (or her) parents work 60 hour weeks to climb the corporate ladder, decides to lead a slower, more home-focused life.”

quoteThe underlying reason for this shift? Matchar says that in her interviews with numerous different types of women who had chosen to stay home for a variety of different reasons was that, in the end, they all hoped to “create smarter, healthier, gentler children.” If you read between the lines of all these quotes and data that Matchar gathered from Millennials, what Millennials are in effect saying is that we don’t really like ourselves. We don’t like what the Baby Boomer’s “careerism and materialist values” left us as individuals or left to us as a culture. Point to the resurgence of the coined “hipster” label, or the vast number of goal-less 20-somethings that make up a large percentage of the “Millennials,” and it becomes rather obvious that this generation is really not a huge fan of the shoes our parents were wanting us to fill.  We don’t like what that mindset created: us. We don’t really like that the Baby Boomers gave up experiencing much of their children’s lives in order to lead their own “successful” ones. And that’s nothing new, every generation spurns the one before it, but Matchar says that despite the vast range of reasons people were choosing to give “the finger to corporate America…what they all shared was a conviction that America was messed up.” And who had messed it up? Without digressing to a blame game, or giving any one group too much responsibility in the current state of the American family, but Millennials naturally look to, and blame, our Baby Boomer parents. Of course, the volley of attacks could be made on Millennials: a generation described as one of the laziest generations, a generation crippled by our inability to choose a path from the myriad of opportunities 20 and 30-somethings have today. And who gave us the ability to choose these opportunities? Of course, the hard-working Baby Boomer parents Millennials are rebelling against and often mooch off of as we casually decide what opportunity to “choose” all while safely tucked in the nest egg of our perhaps aloof, but stable, parents. But that is what is so ironic. The Baby Boomers worked so hard to create an America that the Millennials see as “messed up.” A way of life that the new “adult” generation is choosing to turn away from and essentially do it over themselves in a more traditional way.

quote Matchar points to this DIY subculture and broad distrust in institutions as why blogs are so popular, why many are attempting to grow their own food, to homeschool their children, to cook from scratch, and essentially live much simpler lives. It is “in this context,” Matchar says, that “domesticity is reinvisioned as a valid, creative, politically powerful, even feminist choice.” In essence, a woman’s decision to choose domesticity is more of a decision to gain a new version of freedom from a world our parents worked hard to get but at a cost too high for the consequences of their ambition (their children’s unhappiness) to take with their own future, or current, families. Instead of a choice of bowing out of the “race,” domesticity is more of a way of taking control. Matchar didn’t say this, but I think there’s enough evidence to conclude that as the guinea pigs for the Baby Boomer’s experiment of “all or nothing” for career and personal power, we Millennials are choosing to not have our children become what we are now. We want to make homes, families, and a new life the old way.

vintage images via | via | article quotes via

– <3 A. 

Posts Like This: 

 bfastarticle    mrs dalloway copy    nytimes article

Much Ado About Golightly    Dalloway Complex  A Generation of Gentlemen

Guest-Pinner: If Clara Barton Pinned

clara barton repins via Ez Pudewa

clarabartonguestpinnerClara Barton image and bio via | repins via | via |

The only guest-pinner I could think of befitting the Independence month of July was Clara Barton. I think everyone has a foggy memory of learning about her as the founder of the American chapter of the Red Cross somewhere among the forgotten years of elementary school, but what you might not remember is that woman had some serious balls! (sorry, but seriously, that’s the only way to put it).

Interestingly enough, Clara started off her life as a terrified little soul, too timid even to continue in the school her parents sent her to and she even stopped eating, so overwhelmed was she by the interactions she was forced to make at school. But beneath her timidity, Clara was something of a brilliant tomboy. She loved to play with her male siblings and cousins and she was so good with managing children, she opened a school at the age of 17 and taught there for over a decade. When the school board hired a man over Clara to head the school she had been growing to upwards of 600 students following the completion of her own education, she up and quit, and became the first woman to hold a substantial paid job for the federal government in the U.S. Patent Office. Of course, she’s most famous for founding and leading the American chapter of the Red Cross, the first meeting of the organization actually met in her own personal apartment. What I love most about her though is that despite her ambition, insistence on fairness, and the powerful positions she held, Clara never lost sight of the fact that she was a woman and developed her teaching and nurturing strengths to influence an entire nation with her feminine abilities. If Clara Barton pinned, I think her boards would have a beautiful strength because, after all, for some things, only a woman knows best.

clara barton

I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful Fourth of July! I’ve got recipes and pics to share as soon as I get a moment to get them off my camera and onto this place, oh yes, and happy weekend!

– <3 A. 

Other Guest-Pinners: 

houseofmirthpin    littlewomencollage

          Lily Bart                             Mrs. March

Emma: A Surprisingly Modern Marriage

emma images via mollands.netBesides Pride and Prejudice,  Emma is perhaps Jane Austen’s most beloved novel and definitely her most humorous. Emma herself, despite being labeled a “heroine that no one would like but myself (Austen),” is actually rather endearing as she bumbles through acting as matchmaker for the small, country town of Highbury.

Austen usually takes quite the heat for her seemingly old-fashioned “girls only” novels about quiet, domestic life of the nineteenth century and romantic tales of “good girls win.” Emma especially, as the daughter of a wealthy gentleman with little to do but parade around Highbury trying to marry off her less-well-to-do neighbors couldn’t seem much further from a modern woman. Yet, out of all of Austen’s heroines, Emma is the most modern, the most forward-thinking, and the most independent–a fact that perhaps caused Austen to say that Emma would be a “heroine that no one would like but myself” for Emma, like Austen herself, was indeed well ahead of her time.

So how is Emma so modern? Think about it, she’s the only one of Austen’s heroine’s who isn’t obsessed about getting married. Of course, she wants everyone else to marry, and she at times (falsely) believes she is in love for rather ridiculous reasons, but, for the majority of the novel, Emma has no interest in tying the knot herself.

The most incomprehensible thing in the world to a man, is a woman who rejects his offer of marriage

image via mollands.netEmma already has status, wealth, and security–all primary inducements for women of the nineteenth century to scramble to be wed at the first opportunity, and she has no interest in changing her circumstances. Emma could essentially be her own, independent woman and she is very happy being just that. When she finally does marry, it is not for any of those reasons, instead, she marries purely for love when she discovers that her friendship with Mr. Knightley, who isn’t her superior but is in fact her equal in wealth and circumstance, is actually much more than just a friendship. Even after they are married though, Emma doesn’t give up any of her independence. It is Mr. Knightley who moves into her estate so that she can continue to care for her ailing father. Modern? Powerful? Independent? I think so. In the novel, Emma did in fact achieve what modern women seek in their relationships: equality and independence.

A woman is not to marry a man merely because she is asked, or because he is attached to her, and can write a tolerable letter

image via mollands.netYet, though equal in wealth, and retaining her voice within their marriage, Emma’s relationship to her husband couldn’t be further from how how many modern women view equality for Emma and Mr. Knightley’s “equality” wasn’t a competition, it wasn’t a “I can make that much money too” race, and it wasn’t a “who is busier and more important” challenge. It was simply respectful equality: A partnership instead of a battle of the sexes where each understood one another’s different roles without falling into the modern train of thought that different roles = different worths.

Emma entered her marriage with Mr. Knightley not because she found his wealth and status attractive, but because she admired and respected him. he had wisdom, was rational, and had a strong sense of morality. He treated everyone fairly and kindly, whether they were poor, elderly women, or wealthy, independent men. Ten years her senior, Mr. Knightley brought a wisdom and moral compass to their marriage and though he often reprimanded Emma for her naive, romantic ideas, he did not think less of her and she did not lose her sense of worth. While he brought wisdom, Emma brought cheerful optimism and a fervor for life, and together, they created a perfect balance. Emma didn’t lose anything when she married. She was still essentially herself: respected, loved and was loved, had a voice, and, with Mr. Knightley, created a surprisingly modern marriage.

Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives

quotes via emma, austen, penguin books / images via

– <3 A. 

 Other VMMV Opinions:

motherofallresumes       bfastarticle      mrs dalloway copy

The Mother of All Resumes    Much Ado about Golightly    The Dalloway Complex 

Something about Six


vmmv top postsvmmv top posts

Beauty / style secrets / modern views / vintage muses / DIY / the clutch

It’s officially the 6th month-aversary of VMMV. I don’t quite know how that happened. I remember before launching the blog spending an embarrassingly long time just trying to figure out a title I wanted to give this little piece of internet-space and now 6 months later here we are. I have to say it’s been a more frustrating 6 months than I anticipated. There are many things I wish I could do with this space that I simply cannot do because of my lack of knowledge about necessary, blog-techy things that are too boring to write about. But, let’s just say, if I had the cash to drop on a brilliant, 19 year-old CSS-coder I wouldn’t think about it for more than 2 seconds, I would so drop that cash in an instant.

As it is, I don’t have that luxury and at the moment I’m going to patiently let this place evolve instead of pushing the limits of my anti-savy-ness before I’m ready because I’ve read enough articles to foresee a huge blog-crash-and-burn if I were to take that leap of faith. In cases such as these, I think it might be safer to lack a little faith.

In the meantime, it’s always kind of surprising the posts you all enjoy. I have to say I’m rather crestfallen sometimes when a particular, personal fave isn’t very popular. *sigh* its the ever-present writer-ego that is constantly battered and bruised. So to console myself, I’m posting the top six posts with the highest readership, and my own top picks…just because. As always, THANK-YOU for reading, commenting, and re-posting!

vmmv top 6 picks

Beauty / Recipes / modern views / vintage muses / diy / linen closet

– <3 A. 

The Mother of All Resumes

vmmv opinion articles

I’ve written many times on the topic of working women. And the debates are endless about whether women should or shouldn’t work when the next generation comes along: Is it cruel to have a child and then never be around to raise it? Is it archaic to think modern households can tread water without two incomes? Do we even want to stay home anymore? Is it better for them? Is it better for us? But… what about if you don’t have a choice? What then? Even if you’re a staunch supporter of the stay-at-home ladies or an ambitious arguer for the go-out-and-live-and-work-and-have-a-family women, whatever side of the proverbial fence you’re on, doubts from the “other side” always seem to creep in don’t they? Claire Gutierrez, in her article for Elle magazine last Tuesday, took the stance that she is happy to have to work when she becomes a mom, not because she’d rather have a career than have more time to spend with her family, but because she has to have a career in order to raise a family. Though married, her partner doesn’t bring in as much income as she does, and besides that, her job has the ever-important benefit card going for it. In a nut-shell, Claire makes the point that for her, removing the option of to work or not to work was like having a weight lifted off her shoulders because she would have something to say if and when someone ever asked, or if and when those “bad-mother” doubts began to creep in and cry, “why are you leaving your kids again?” She could simply say, “because I have to for them to survive.”

She hits on an interesting point, that is that ladies should only feel guilty about choosing career over a family if they don’t have to have a career. That is, less choice equals less guilt. If you have to be at work for your kids, it’s not so “bad” as if you’re just working for you. If she stopped at that point, she might have something. But, she went on to muddle through the argument that all anti-stay-at-homers fall into, that is that motherhood isn’t anything to aspire to, that desiring to be with your children is like a teen girl never growing out of, or maturing from, the Friday night babysitting phase. She says that her own mother encouraged her daughters to “not be like her” because they were “too smart.” Further, she states that no moms with daughters that she knows hope their daughters will cast aside their ambitions to be “just a mother.” She then references (and is seemingly agreeing with) a young girl from Hanna Rosin’s now famous article The End of Men, when the young girl asks her own mother a rather disturbing question:

Why is [my education] important if I’m just going to grow up and be a mommy like you?

Motherhood doesn’t have a very good reputation, maybe it never did, maybe the good mums have always been under-appreciated because many times many mothers really are just baby-sitters: wanting to dress up little ones, decorate nurseries, organize play-dates and not deal with, or prepare for, shaping a small life. That’s kind of what Claire makes it sound like…at least when she says that though she has no choice not to work, she actually finds great relief in, and joyfully toasts “(her) good fortune not to have to change quite so many diapers, not to have to push the swing for quite so long, not to have to read Green Eggs and Ham a thousand times.” So, if that’s how our culture sees motherhood, then maybe we should toss the job to the guys and tell our little women to grow up and do something else more estimable. Who wants to be a 35 year-old baby-sitter anyway?

But, what is “just” a “mother”? If you look it up in the dictionary, one explanation is simply “a female parent.” Ok, that’s a given, but other explanations give a little more insight into what the term means:

MOTHER: (n)  (2.) a woman in authority; (3) something that is an extreme or ultimate example

Wow. “To be an extreme and ultimate example”? Holy crap, that’s quite the job description, a job that you should enter as well-equipped as possible.  That’s why education, ambitions, and achievements are important if you are, will be, or want to be a mum. The idea that if you “just” want to be a mom then you don’t have to be educated or have your own desires, goals, and life-achievements is a very upside down view of motherhood. In The End of Men article that Claire references in her own monologue, the article retells story after story of how young women who have degrees, goals, and good-jobs, are anticipating letting their current or future boyfriends, fiances, and husbands “play around with the kiddies at home” since the men in their lives are essentially failing in the grown-up world.

Ok, sure, so caring for a three-year-old doesn’t require a law degree. Raising a child doesn’t require a degree at all. Sure, if the one parent who happens to have the law degree is the mum and the dad chooses to stay home then great, but what I’m saying is, what does raising a child well require? What does the idea that… if dad is kinda “the dumb one,” well, he’ll raise our kids…do to the kids? When you graduate from college and head out into the world for whatever job you’re seeking, don’t you want to be the over-qualified one? Hardly anyone gets hired by just having the minimum listed on their resume. Don’t you want to know what to do in every circumstance? To bring experiences, knowledge, and insight into situations that someone else doesn’t have? Why wouldn’t you want to do that with your own child? Since when has motherhood become the janitor job? The unqualified position? The GED optional job? Since I guess girls started being told that being a mother is “just” something to do. Since our culture stopped looking up the definition of motherhood. Since mothers stopped at “just” being a female parent instead of an extreme and ultimate example. And, since motherhood became a choice instead of a privilege.

If you are the breadwinner for your family then good for you. If you have to work, and that’s the best thing you can do for future or current little ones, then it’s wonderful that you have that opportunity. But, if you have to, or even if you want to work, don’t ever let the least qualified raise your kids and don’t ever become the least qualified that will be raising your kids because you won’t “just be a mommy” you will be embarking on setting the “extreme and ultimate example.”

-<3 A. 

Other VMMV Opinions: 

 nytimes article    dating dilemmas    bfastarticle

     Gender Equality                    Dating Dilemmas               Much Ado About Golightly

Much Ado About Golightly

breakfast at tiffanys

This year, Truman Capote’s 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s turns 55 years old. And, to celebrate the heroine’s (Holly Golightly) undying attraction among women since her debut first on the pages of Capote’s book, and then on the silver-screen with Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal of the quirky, slightly troubled, yet unfailingly original, girl, Broadway opened it’s own version of the tale last week on March 20th. Prior to the opening, the New York Times ran an article attempting to pin down the elusive character of Holly Golightly, seeking to grasp both the identity of the girl herself (was she a call girl, an escort, a common prostitute, or simply a liberated, artistic woman seeking a wild, new life?) as well as why women from the 1950’s, 60’s, 80’s, and now, still adore and identify with her.

It’s a legitimate question, for, because the on-screen version of Capote’s novella toned down the rather risque (for the time) portions of the original story, we never  are explicitly told what Holly Golightly “does” and yet, it’s alluded to, and can be implied by the more insightful viewer, that Holly is something of an escort, a sort of “kept woman” not by one wealthy man but by many. How “far” she goes with these men we are never told, but it is clear that they repay her in clothing, housing, favors etc. And thus the New York Times article then questions, why do generations after generations of women love this portrait of femininity? Why is something of a call girl (a young and seemingly innocent one to be sure but still, the intonations are there) the emblem of what forward-thinking women are, admire, or want to be?

In the 1950’s and 60’s young women loved Holly-Audrey’s aura of liberation (from men, mothers, marriage and middle-class morality)…Today young women embrace the character for the same reasons.

breakfast at tiffanys image via fanpopThe article then goes on to quote a 20-something girl who declares that Holly is “a strong, free woman, and the difference between her and a call girl or prostitute lies in the control she has over her relationships.” Reading these reviews of Holly’s character, if I hadn’t read the book or seen the film, I would immediately conjure up a very happy, confident, brilliant, modern woman, wouldn’t you? I mean, let’s review: the quotes say that Holly is enveloped in an “aura of liberation,” is free of constraints of typical moral compasses, and has “control over her relationships.” Sounds pretty grand, yes? But if you’ve read the novella, or seen the film, you know that beneath Holly’s beauty and “freedom” is a character wracked with sadness, loneliness, and confusion. Scene after scene passes with Holly searching for something to give her life meaning. And, scene after scene passes with Holly almost bi-polarly jumping from champagne-induced joy to a downward, depressing spiral into the moral vacuum she created for herself–an emotion she dubs as the “mean reds,” when “suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.” Throughout the story, Holly constantly refers to her fear of “belonging,” being trapped, and being stuck with just one person. And so, she goes from one man to the next, avoiding love, crushing it when it happens to infiltrate her life, and emerging as an “independent” woman perhaps, but a miserable, hardened one at that.

So, repeating the Times’s query, what about this character do women so admire?breakfast at tiffanys
Of course you could just admire the character for her classic, chic style, and her whimsical apartment decorating ideas. Indeed, many fans of Holly stop at just that aspect of her personality. The Times article mentions the iconic image of Hepburn peering into the Tiffany’s window as a poster so famous you’re sure to find it populating the walls of some dorm room at almost every college campus around the country. It’s true too, a black, white, and pink version of the image accompanied me into the trenches of first-year college life. I happily welcomed Holly into that 10X10 space, never really thinking past the girl’s surface-style. Another devoted Golightly-fan quips in the Times article that though perhaps she is “blinded by (her) love for” Holly, she sees “her (Holly’s) behavior as simply taking control and living life to the fullest.” In other words, she admires Holly’s strength to not give in to one man. To come and go from relationships, taking what she needs but never giving in, refusing to be “put in a cage” by sticking with one person and instead doing as she chooses, seeing through every whimsical fancy, and fulfilling every independent desire. Though the woman quoted in the Times saw and admired Holly for “living life to the fullest” and “taking control,” if you look at the character, I see nothing of a fulfilled woman, nor a powerful and confident one. Instead, just stopping at a fairly superficial character sketch of Golightly reveals she is at times incoherent, always self-conscious and timid when she finds herself in real, meaningful relationships, shies away from responsibility, and lives day-to-day, casually entering and exiting relationships and remaining ever on an elusive, mysterious pedestal to the men she interacts with yet hiding on the inside a heart crushed by an incessant search for belonging. Of course, this may be what is so attractive about her to so many modern women, women who are told that personal fulfillment can’t happen inside a singular, monogamous relationship. Instead, we are urged to “find ourselves” before “belonging” to anyone, take what we can from the many relationships we should pursue and “try on” along the way, call it baggage experience, and head on our own way. But I tend to agree with Holly’s frustrated love interest, Paul: that sometimes being in love with one person is the most powerful and fulfilling thing you could ever do, because it means that you are so confident in yourself that even giving up “half” still makes a whole “you”:

 You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? You’re chicken, you’ve got no guts. You’re afraid to stick out your  chin and say, “Okay, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.” You call yourself a free spirit, a “wild thing,” and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.

So, when I read the Cort Theatre’s tagline for attracting Broadway fans to the new Breakfast at Tiffany’s show, proudly saying that the show’s heroine, Holly Golightly,  “is the woman every man wants to be with and every woman wants to be,” I could say quite definitely that yes, I will always love Audrey as Holly, yes, I love her claw-foot-tub-couch, and yes, I love her alligator kitten heels and easy, chic style, but no, actually, I don’t want to be her, and I wouldn’t want to be with a man who would.

images via fanpop |quotes via Breakfast at Tiffanys, New york times, Cort theatre

– <3 A. 

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Plain Jane

austen sketch via mollands.netPlain Jane: “Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much, that they never find it necessary to use more than half.”

-Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey

Perhaps that is why women usually live a bit longer, yes? We’re pacing ourselves.

The Dalloway Complex

image via folio society

In last month’s edition of Elle magazine, Daphne Merkin tackled a review of the British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips’ new book Missing Out:  Praise of the Unlived Life. From Phillips’ book, Merkin quotes that the “idea of the unlived life-or, as he calls it, ‘the myth of our potential’- is more prevalent now than it once was, because affluence has allowed more people than ever before to think of their lives in terms of choices and options.” The quote struck something in me, for post-college life has made me uncomfortably aware of the enormity of the consequences of decisions I now make. For the first twenty odd years of my life, my “plan” seemed murky at times but the fog always eventually cleared into a straight forward line. From elementary you trudged through middle school, from those troublesome years to high school, and from high school you went to college, and then from college you went….where? Now, every decision eliminates certain paths, dreams, and desires, for I fully believe you can only walk down one, if you want to walk it well, despite the modern addiction of “having it all.” As I began to read Merkin’s article, “Who’s Sorry Now,” the ever-present female struggle between self, ambition, and the woman’s inherent nurturing nature reared it’s head yet again. Not more than two paragraphs into her article, Merkin says that Phillips’ book forced her to conjure her own life regrets wherein she discovered that her biggest was her failure to fully fulfill and see through a traditional role as wife and mother:

One of my sharpest feelings of regret involves a vision of myself as Marmee in Little Women. These range from an ongoing feeling of nostalgia for my daughter’s early years and a pained sense that I hadn’t fully appreciated them, hadn’t been sufficiently alert to every gurgle and adorable bit of phrasing.

She goes on to detail her regret over being a single mother of an only daughter who “loves me one minute and despises me the next,” and woefully describes another imaginary life where she dreams of she and her ex-husband working things out and being the happy friends in marriage as they now are outside of it. Seemingly frustrated by the relationships in her life, Merkin finds comfort in Phillips’ theory that “all love stories are frustration stories,” and the unlived or “wished for” lives that paralyze our potential decisions or fill our current decisions with regret aren’t really bad but “are as important to us as our real existence-if not more so- because they provide us with a metaphysical safety net, allowing us to consider transgressive urges and ungratifiable impulses without necessarily acting on them.” Here though, as a fellow woman, I have to disagree with Merkin and ask her if this constant consideration of transgressive urges and “wished for” lives are not the reason for her current regret, if those things actually distracted her from fully appreciating and being “sufficiently alert to every gurgle” of her daughter’s youth, creating instead a young woman who grew up ever-conscious that her mother’s life with her was not complete enough to stave off other, “wished for” lives.

mrs. dalloway image via foliosocietyProbably the most archetypal source for this now mainstream story of female struggle and regret is Virginia Woolf’s protagonist in Mrs. Dalloway. Clarissa Dalloway is a frustrated, bourgeois housewife, struggling, as many were post World War I, with personal identity and a crisis of life purpose. Troubled and feeling stagnant in her role as an aging wife and now unneeded mother, her present life is constantly interrupted by remembrances of her childhood friend Sally Seton who represents in Clarissa’s memory what Clarissa had always wanted to be: an independent woman, staving off the repressive institution of marriage, and carefree of tradition, societal norms, and reputation. Her vision of Sally as she last knew her stands in stark opposition to the reality of her own life:

But often now this body she wore, this body, with all its capacities seemed nothing-nothing at all. She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible; unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress…this being Mrs. Dalloway, not even Clarissa anymore; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway.

folio societyTo Clarissa’s shock however, when she again chances across Sally Seton, the wild-child Sally has transformed into the elegant Lady Rosseter, wife to the self-made Lord Rosseter, mother to five boys, and yet, still exuding her individual, independent self. Unlike Clarissa, Sally was happy in her choice, she had committed to her marriage and family and in her full commitment to one choice had not lost any of herself in these mental wanderings of “wished for” lives as Clarissa had done and as Daphne Merkin now does. She had chosen a path and had used all that she was to make that choice everything it could be. She had not lost herself nor regretted what could have been because she was fully involved in what was. She would never have to regret not being “sufficiently alert” to her children’s youthful gurgles, nor was she haunted by feelings of a lost self, being “invisible; unseen; unknown,” because the present was all that she lived in.

We all digress into regret now and again. Especially as modern women there are myriads of lives we have the opportunity to choose, to dream about, and to live. Yet, I have to disagree with Adam Phillips, Daphne Merkin, and Clarissa: I don’t want to lose myself into even the imaginings of “wished for” lives even if I never act upon them. I’d rather not lose myself to the Dalloway complex of always wishing, longing, regretting, and imagining a life better or more fulfilled. As Clarissa found out, what she imagined someone else’s life to be was not always what it was, so why imagine another life from your own? Just live what you’ve chosen the best way you presently can.

image source: the Folio society

– <3 A. 

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