Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sex and the Media World

An image from the article, which is now my desktop background

Okay, I'll admit it. I was practically moved to tears by Rebecca Traister's article in Salon today, entitled "Another Pretty Face of a Generation." Not only is it startlingly accurate, but it's also so painfully well-written that I actually read it three times because I enjoyed it that goddamn much.

Traister brings to light critical issues concerning women in the media, and how they are treated - not just by the macho bigwigs swinging their dicks like n+1 writers and the Foer brothers (Franklin, The New Republic editor, and Jonathan, novelist extraordinaire), but also by the general public, whose thirst for blood became quite evident in the comments section of Emily Gould's now infamous Times Magazine article. Traister writes:
We are mired in a repetitious pattern of hate, jealousy and resentment toward those who are plucked by media powers and come to stand -- however inefficiently -- for the rest of us in the cultural imagination, securing the top spots, the best exposure, the prime media real estate in exchange for openings veins of feminine vulnerability.

Traister cites Joyce Maynard and Elizabeth Wurtzel as victims in solidarity with bloggy baby Gould and SATC's reigning heroine not-so-affectionately coined "Scary Sadshaw." All women bled out a distinct vulnerability that made them simultaneously attractive to the male literary heads and repulsive to those who deem any kind of self-reflection crass or narcissistic. This "built up to be torn down" mentality reflects a stark sexism that has recently become increasingly evident in the media's treatment of its new female literary ingenues, as well as in Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Are all women writers destined to be plastered across billboards a la SATC's Carrie's bus advert, which she herself worried was "too sexy?" A quick Wikipedia search for these women turns up feminine, subtly sexual default images depicting shy young things with a penchant for the pen. (See Below) Is this further objectification of women - even of those who would otherwise be smart enough to avoid it?

Or is it something more - something, as a neo-feminist, I'm kind of okay with championing? Emily said she had a problem with the way the Times portrayed her, but perhaps some women are okay with using their bodies to sell their writing. The trouble, then, surfaces when the bodies become more important than the writing, and for women like Maynard, that problem potentially stunts their full development into the talented writers they could be. Hopefully, for Emily's sake - and mine - that's not the case.


-Jess

J.D. Salinger muse and renowned author Joyce Maynard: Barefoot and not pregnant.

Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote explicitely and honestly about depression in the 90's critically acclaimed autobiography Prozac Nation

A screencap from the Sex and the City opening credits shows Carrie lounging languidly beside an ad for her newspaper column

As yet, ex-Gawker editor and Times memoirist Emily Gould does not have a Wikipedia picture, but a quick Google Image search of her name turns up a number of photos of her in an American Apparel bathingsuit.

2 comments:

Stiven said...

What particularly bothers me is the effect that Emily Gould has had on the media. It really must be a slow news week.

Above many other things, one could talk about the upcoming election, gay rights, and most importantly the earthquake in China.

Yet, Gawker and the like have created this media-frenzy of everything Gould. It is rather painful.

I don’t care what she has to say. I think she deserves some of the negative feedback she received from the NY Times article. Although “readable” as Traister says, I think that it just a mish-mesh of everything she has done in the last two years for Gawker.

Nothing new here.

Now, this might be attributed to the fact I have a dick (and naturally a dick controls my pen)—but I don’t see this as a neo-feminist movement.

A commenter compared Gould to Joni Mitchell. I think that is an insult to the latter, because Mitchell’s writings matter and they have something to say. I doubt that someone in 2031 will give a shit about Gould’s sex life.

An artist struggles during her or his whole life to deliver messages which are highly built on their personal experiences. Then we have quasi-celebrities like Gould, and fictional characters like Bradshaw that idolize the sloppy act of chronicling personal events (to no avail!) and make a successful living out of it.

We are in the age of writing as we’re living through the events. Gould’s article feels as though it talks about yesterday’s events. And in actuality, it does.

I don’t care too much for the backlash she gets for publicly projecting her sex life. In an ideal world, her writings would be loved despite the fact that she’s a female right?

Then you realize that writings are a version of the writer—in the way that Mary Shelley is Frankenstein. Now Shelley could have posed with as many bed sheets as she had wanted, her writings would have still mattered. But because Emily Gould is Emily Gould is Emily Gould, there is nothing that matters there.

Jess and Josh said...

Stiven - I agree, I'm getting tired of the Emily Gould shitstorm, but neither I nor Traister are arguing that Gould's piece is feminist or neo-feminist. Instead, I was simply pointing out that the REACTIONS to her piece - as well as the reactions stimulated by other pieces by contemporary women authors - illuminate a sexist attitude that brings feminist issues to the forefront.

And the reason Gawker has been covering it so intensely, despite annoyance vocalized by editors and commenters alike, seems twofold. First, Denton himself said in a post that he doesn't like Emily, so it'd be natural for him to champion anti-Emily posts. Furthermore, she is an ex-Gawker editor, so not only is she a public "person of interest" currently (that is, until the next NY Times mag article surfaces), but she's also of personal interest to the Gawker media network and its employees.

Jess