Paris Hilton’s House
Used to be, whenever I saw a photo of Paris Hilton at some celebrity party or read about the filming of Simple Life 4, I would think, “People, she’s never going to disappear if we keep paying attention to her.”
That’s what I used to think, until I saw the inside of her house.
While it may be true that most of us view our homes as extensions of our selves, Hilton isn’t just house-proud: She’s house-vain and—bless her heart—thoroughly transparent in her shelter narcissism. Her interior decorator, Faye Resnick (a name which might be familiar to those of you who followed the O.J. Simpson trial), told Us Weekly that Paris asked her, “Can you make it pretty? Can you make it look like me?
This is hardly surprising, of course, but it is somewhat astonishing to see how ingenious Resnick and Paris were in finding new surfaces to which they might attach mirrors. Paris’s living room features a mirrored bar decorated with mirrored obelisks and crowned with a virtual mirror: a poster-size portrait of Paris. The bed is also covered in faceted mirrors, as is the chest of drawers in the walk-in closet.
So, as she wanders about her house, Paris Hilton sees herself endlessly refracted. It’s a fortress of self-absorption. As long as she can watch herself watching herself, she may never even notice if we stop watching her.
Yes Donors and Choice Mothers
I was interviewed recently, and one of the questions I answered was asked—and I’m paraphrasing here—was “How would marriage and the workplace be different if the radical feminists of 30 or 35 years ago had been more successful?” It was hard for me to answer the question, because it was hard for me to imagine a world in which radical feminism achieved its goals. This is basically what I said in my non-responsive response, and I mentioned, as an example, Shulamith Firestone’s program for releasing women from the biological responsibilities and complications of reproduction. While it is possible to argue that women are hobbled by pregnancy, childbirth, and mothering, the willingness of many women to undergo expensive, intrusive, and dicey fertility treatments suggest that a lot of women have no desire to be liberated from the corporeal aspects of motherhood.
I thought about this again while I was reading the cover story from yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, “Wanted: A Few Good Sperm.” I was thinking about how, while women may not be willing to outsource gestation—quite the contrary—a growing number of them are creating a kind of reproduction and parenthood in which men are almost unnecessary. I was also intrigued by the way many of the women who choose to become single mothers are forging new types of community and family, communities made of other single mothers and families made of children who are the product of the same sperm donor—communities and families of which the sperm donor himself is generally not a part. This may be about as close to achieving the goals of old-school radical feminism as we are likely to get.
This is all, of course, a big social experiment, but early signs are positive. In the article, Jennifer Egan writes that “a 1992 survey of teenagers raised by single mothers found that they experienced markedly fewer adolescent problems than children of divorce.” And she mentions that “a continuing study of a group of children in England, now 2, who were conceived by single women using donor sperm concludes that so far they are healthy and well adjusted.”
On the other hand, I find some of the genetic engineering that’s going on alarming. Here’s one woman profiled in the article assessing a sperm donor: “‘Thick hair, which is also nice,’ she said, ‘because if I happen to get a son, I don’t like bald guys’”. Some of it is alarming and also naïve. Here’s the same woman on another donor: “‘…he’s six feet but he only weighs 150. Which is good. If I have a girl, she wants to be skinny, and if she can eat what she wants, that’s perfect’”. (I have a tall, skinny dad. I am neither tall nor skinny.) Of course, I can’t say that I wouldn’t be making similar analyses if I were shopping for DNA.
And here’s the big reason I found this article so interesting: I can easily imagine myself shopping for DNA.
My husband has told me many times that, if we had broken up, he would have given up on the idea of marriage. He would have bought himself a condo with a hot tub, he would have updated his personals profile to make it clear that he wasn’t looking for a serious relationship, and he would have settled into a life mild hedonism. (Sometimes—particularly when, say, our roof is leaking or when he’s contemplating the complexities of our joint tax return—Ted gets a faraway look in his eyes, and I suspect that he’s paying a little visit to perennial bachelor fantasyland.)
But I’ve never really thought much about what I would have done if we hadn’t gotten married (probably because I was always confident that Ted would be smart enough to marry me). Had we not gotten married, though, I believe I would have given up, too—on marriage, but not on motherhood.
I was never particularly marriage-minded, in any case; that is, I didn’t grow up dreaming about marriage in the abstract. There are a couple of guys I have thought about marrying, but I have also dated guys that I really couldn’t imagine being married to—including one guy that I totally, totally loved but couldn’t quite see as a husband, and certainly not as a father.
Of course, I didn’t grow up dreaming about babies, either. I didn’t know that I wanted to be a mother until I got pregnant, by accident, and discovered, by accident, that motherhood was tremendously important to me—a lesson that was, if anything, reinforced when I had a miscarriage. It’s easy to imagine that I would have given up on romance if I hadn’t married Ted, but I can’t imagine that I would have given up on motherhood. It seems that an increasing number of women feel the same way I believe I would have.
Mean Girls Triumphant
I really appreciated Naomi Wolf’s piece on popular fiction for teenaged girls in the last New York Times Book Review. I appreciated it because I have always wondered just how bad those Gossip Girl books are but I couldn’t quite bring myself to read one, and I appreciated it because Wolf offered more than a shrill jeremiad. She didn’t just freak out about all the sex and drugs and shopping in these books; she explained how, in their valorization of the rich and popular crowd, these books invert the philosophy of young adult fiction as we have known it, not to mention the philosophy of Austen and Alcott.
However, there was one line that gave me pause: “They carry no rating or recommended age range on the cover, but their intended audience—teenage girls—can’t be in doubt. They feature sleek, conventionally beautiful girls lounging, getting in or out of limos, laughing and striking poses. Any parent—including me—might put them in the Barnes & Noble basket without a second glance.”
Is she high? It’s true that the A-List and Clique books have a fairly innocuous appearance—although, I’ve got to say, all those girls look supremely bitchy—but I knew those Gossip Girls were trouble without ever reading a word. The covers are so much scarier than anything presented by grown-up chick lit. Well, I suppose there’s something at least a little bit scary about the idea that adult women think of themselves—or want to think of themselves—as cartoon characters, but I find the glossily eroticized photos that adorn the Gossip Girl jackets to be disturbing in a much more visceral way.
The photos are always cropped in such a way that the model loses all identifying—all humanizing—features. Now, given that these books are, to quote author Cecily von Ziegesar, “aspirational” (saints preserve us), it makes sense to make the girls on their covers as generic as possible; it’s easier for readers to project themselves into the glamorous world of the novels. On the other hand, it’s hard not to notice that these young women are reduced to nothing but open mouths, pubescent breasts, and lanky legs. It’s hard for me to imagine, looking at these images, that anything wholesome or redeeming or even thoughtful might lie behind them. It seems that my imagining was not too far off the mark.
Doing My Part to Make “Napoli” the New “Santorum”
When asked to provide an example of someone who might be worthy of an abortion, Bill Napoli, a state senator from the benighted republic of South Dakota, had this to say:
A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.
Taking a page from the book of Dan Savage—who has successfully redefined the word “santorum”—Candy at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels (why am I only now learning of this site?) would like to turn Bill Napoli into a brand new verb:
napoli (not to be confused with the proper noun, which indicates the Italian city) Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): napolied
1. To brutalize and rape, sodomize as bad as you can possibly make it, a young, religious virgin woman who was saving herself for marriage.
2. To hella rape somebody.
Etymology: From State Senator Bill Napoli’s (R-SD) description of an acceptable rape that would merit an exemption from South Dakota’s abortion ban.
[SMART BITCHES LINK VIA MOTHERTALKERS.]
I Really, Really Hope that Kate Michelman Doesn’t Run for the Senate in Pennsylvania
The best is the enemy of the good.—Voltaire
I have taken some shit—in blog comment threads and in real life—for my willingness to support anti-choice Democrats. My position has been and remains: any Democrat is better than any Republican. In the case of the Pennsylvania Senate race, I would go so far as to argue that any carbon-based life form—ferret, sea slug, dust mite, algae—is better than Rick Santorum. Next to Santorum, George W. Bush is a man of discerning intellect, keen thoughtfulness, and deep compassion.
I am willing to support anti-choice Democrats who have a shot at winning elections because, while I care very much about reproductive rights, I care about other things, too, things like basic human rights, access to healthcare, the environment, the social safety net, education, unchecked executive privilege, preemptive wars, and America’s place in the world community. I believe that a Senate with a Democratic majority—even if some of those Senators are anti-choice—is more likely to shape policies that reflect my views and desires on all these issues than a Senate with a Republican majority.
When it comes to politics, I am a pragmatist. This is why I really, really hope that Kate Michelman doesn’t run as an Independent. As I see it, the only thing her candidacy can do is make life a little easier for Santorum. It’s not like any of his supporters are going to vote for the former president of NARAL. Instead, she will draw the votes of people who prefer ideological purity to winning elections, people who would have grudgingly cast a vote for Bob Casey or, perhaps, have stayed home on election day.
I have little respect for a futile protest vote in any case (Nader supporters, I’m looking at you, and I’m still kind of pissed off), but it’s not like there isn’t a pro-choice candidate running against Casey for the Democratic candidacy. If Michelman really wants to do something useful, she could put her muscle behind Chuck Pennacchio and help to make him a viable, electable candidate.
UPDATE Michelman has decided not to run. I guess she read this post.
For more Oscar fashion fun, go to Go Fug Yourself.
“The Happiest Wives”
Ted hipped me to John Tierney’s op-ed piece, “The Happiest Wives”, the day it was published, but it’s taken me awhile to get around to reading it. Here’s the part I found most interesting:
Consider what’s happened with housework, that perpetual sore point. From the 1960’s through the 80’s, wives cut back on housework as husbands did more. In the 1990’s, though, the equalizing trend leveled off, leaving wives still doing nearly twice as much of the work at home.
That seems terribly unfair unless you look at how men and women behave when they’re living by themselves: the women do twice as much housework as the men do. Single men do less cooking and cleaning, because those jobs don't seem as important to them. They can live with unmade beds and frozen dinners.
I found this interesting because it never occurred to me before, and because it seems to me to make sense. Certainly, the division of labor in my own marriage is shaped by pre-existing behavior—mine, and my husband’s—although, the tasks aren’t so neatly distributed by gender. I was enthusiastic about cooking even when I was just cooking for myself, but I was also a total slob when I was a single gal. As a bachelor, Ted subsisted on Chunky soup and Raisin Bran, but he always had a clean bathroom. Now that we’re married, I do most of the cooking and he does most of the cleaning.
This system wasn’t the product of thoughtful, principled negotiation; it’s just kind of how things have worked out. If we kept track of the hours Ted spends Swiffering and that I spend chopping cilantro, we might discover that our household contributions are not precisely equal, but I doubt that we’re ever going to do that. Indeed, I think that the organic nature of our division of labor is part of what makes it work, and I’m pretty certain that it accounts for the flexibility we enjoy.
Ted cleans because he has a low tolerance for filth; if he lets things slide a bit, I don’t care, because I’m a pig. Similarly, if I feel like defrosting a pizza for supper, that’s just fine with Ted. If I need a pot or a knife that’s sitting in the sink, I don’t ask Ted to do the dishes; I clean it myself. When the so-called “morning” sickness made food preparation an impossibly noxious task for me, Ted didn’t pout or complain; he offered to cook.
Now, before everybody starts getting all up in my shit, I would like to make it clear that I’m not presenting my marriage as a model union that should be emulated by all, and I’m certainly not saying that Tierney’s column offers a foolproof program for social engineering. Furthermore, I am not suggesting that marriage doesn’t—or shouldn’t—change a person’s conduct. I’m just saying that the paragraphs quoted above resonated with me.
Of course, it’s also worth noting that the happy division of labor that Tierney describes—career man with stay-at-home wife—doesn’t work for everyone (some of my best friends are statistical outliers, and I’m always wary of any attempt by norms to tell them how to live), and that, even when it does work, it only works as long as the couple is married. This is something Ted mentioned when we discussed the column, and it’s something we discussed at length before I quit my job. I was happy to jettison a career in marketing, but the fact remains that, if Ted and I get divorced, I’ll be kind of screwed, professionally speaking.
In the days since it first appeared, this column has made the rounds in the blogosphere. Amanda at Pandagon rips Tierney a new one. I particularly liked her response to Tierney’s observation that, from the 60s through the 80s, women started doing less housework and men started doing more, while this trend leveled off in the 90s:
…if men were picking up more and more of their share of housework and then stopped when Tierney says, it might not be just because men have a built-in housework termination gear that makes them stop as soon as they hit 60% of whatever the female in the vicinity is doing. That this “leveling off” happened right about the same time that the anti-feminist backlash that Susan Faludi described was hitting an apex and the rise of the Limbaugh listening embittered white male might not be a mere coincidence, but a trend that also got played out at home.
Congratulations Dr. Clayton, Tenured Professor
On February 23, 2006, the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees voted to award tenure to Dr. Edward William Clayton II. Way to go, handsome!