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December 13, 2004

Comments

John

That Atwood novel is hillarious. The Christian Right is so powerful we can't stop sex-ed in kindergarten, or the wholesale slaughter of the unborn, but suddenly we're THE threat to democracy. Yawn. It's a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy again....Let me know when liberals make another argument (I use the term loosely)

With respect to the magazines, though, I think you are wrong, and they are dangerous. They feed not only a culture of promiscuity, but a horror of aging, and what amounts to narcissitic idolatry of the ideal body shape. It's obscene that children are dying of Hunger in the Sudan while we worry about wrinkles, bikinis and botox, and magazines like Cleo and Cosmo must take a good deal of the blame for our idolatrous worship of youth and beauty. You have, I'm afraid, hit my hidden Liberal streak-Vacuous, yes. But also vain, vice-ridden and vixenish, encouraging selfishness and destruction.

Kelly

"That Atwood Novel" is not so hilarious to those who see it as a portent of things to come John. Suddenly, what was once deemed science fiction, doesn't seem all that fictitious, and for some of us, that's freaking scarey.

ianvh

What's your take on men reading Playboy. Does this same argument work in that context? And, if not, where do you draw the line?

ianvh

John

If there's a vast Theocratic plot to return women to the kitchen and tied to the bed, how come no-one told me? I know I'm only an intern in the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, but you'd have thought someone would have said something. I'm crushed that I didn't get to help.

John

Oh, by the way, Kelly-Forgive the question, but how many conservative Christians have you actually met? (On your door-step and yelling at you doesn't count). The Reality of Conservatism is vastly different to Atwood's jeremiad, as is the reality of Christianity, (The 6 people at the Westboro Baptist Church don't count either) which is why I find it so hillarious. It's Feminist paranoia run amok, a cross between a Nightmare and wish-fulfilment. It's easy to hate someone if you demonise them, which is what Atwood does-It's the equivalent of accusing Democrats of wanting to ban the Bible.

Hugo

Ian, I do think there is a difference -- see my post on the sidebar about Porn and HIV.

John: I am so sorry. The VRWC headquarters in Texas informs me that they have suspended contact with Antipodean affiliates. I suspect that your statements of compassion towards the vulnerable have rendered you suspect in their eyes; I am sure, however, that if you contact Mr. Rove directly, you can once again find yourself in the VRWC's good graces.

John

No, no, that's the wrong branch office. We outposts of Empire suspended contact with the United States office after their disgraceful rebellion against Crown and Empire in 1776. Paineite Rabble! Although there have been rumblings towards a rapprochement with the Southern half, (They are gentlefolk, after all) the talks have not yet been completed, since they retain an unaccountable affection for republican government. Our Right Wing Conspiracy is headquartered in London, and watched over by the shades of Burke and the Duke of Wellington. We are a Dominion, after all, and the Most Loyal at that.

Hugo

Oh.

La Lubu

I've got an answer to Reeves' question "where are the women crying out for higher intellectual and moral standards..." It's simple really; we're eschewing the crap and reading the good stuff. Or, engaging in a little fluff (I loved your comparison with spectator sports, Hugo!), and mostly reading the good stuff.

In short, we've got bigger fish to fry than to worry about what some publisher is putting out. If I don't like it, I don't read it. If lousy movies are playing at the theater, I rent or buy good DVDs. If the radio is playing vapid top-40, I can tune in to streaming sounds on the 'net, or fire up the CD collection. Same with TV. Just because crap has better distribution, doesn't mean I can't ignore it.

And frankly, there's plenty of other people, like Mr. Reeves, who have enough time on their hands to worry about the impending moral destruction of women, because we show signs of being alive from the waist-on-down. In the meantime, I'll confine my worries to what is real. If a fashion mag is going to bring down civilization, hell---we're already doomed. Party like it's 1999, ya know?!

La Lubu

Oh, and folks? Please follow the link to this guy's column for the full flavor. He's fully convinced that we (meaning women) have morally fallen off the cliff since...when? The sixties. Of course! Oughta give you an idea of his real agenda

Camassia

I agree with La Lubu. The best way for us to express our displeasure with such things is to not buy them. And offer teenage girls better things to read.

NancyP

Margaret Atwood lived for a while in Afghanistan and used purdah culture as part of the basis for that novel. Islamic religious justifications were used in Afghanistan (Taliban, etc), as Christian religious justifications have been used in other localities for restricting women's right to speak in public, own property, be educated beyond the grade school level, or vote (all four examples from US history). To this day there are US men who publicly call for repeal of women's suffrage, though they are viewed as extreme - btw, this rhetoric appears in Father's Rights websites fairly often. The "declining fertility" trope is fairly common in science fiction, ever since the bald eagles were declared endangered in the 1960s due to DDT poisoning (with the DDT ban, the eagles have recovered). John, like many another humorless masculinist, doesn't recognize literary genre, satire, etc. Finally, can't Americans grasp that people of other nationalities may regard us as slightly retarded giants? Atwood is Canadian, and under no obligation to worship every American quirk as The Best In The World, or to regard us as Pure In Heart And Soul. Face it, fellow Americans - we are often self-righteous little schmucks.

NancyP

And I don't bother with those magazines. They are vehicles to get ads under the eyes of their readers. I don't pay for 300 pages of ads to 40 pages of content - in fact, I would demand to be paid, say, $3.95 for the effort of leafing through the thing.

John

I did recognise literary genre, Nancy. It didn't make the book any less amusing. It's not confined to Atwood, I find most of the grimly earnest Feminist tracts to be quite funny. Then again, I'm a crusty reactionary, and I would.

As for worshipping All Things American, I cordially dislike large parts of American culture, and say so. I hate Yankee tourists, who come here like they own the place. I am a proud Kiwi. It doesn't stop me recognising and being very grateful for the blessings the United States has given us, and the rest of the world. Starting with the Texan lads who came over here in 1942. We don't forget, even if America does, that your hearts are in the right place. That's why you beat yourselves up so much.

NancyP

I confess that I am baffled, John. Did you think that Swift was advocating roast baby for dinner and that the authorities should check his garbage for the evidence and hang him forthwith?

John

No, no. Swift had a serious point. I saw Margaret Atwood's point through the satire, and it's the point (ie: The Fundies are dangerous) that I find incredibly amusing. By singling us out, she shows her ignorance of Christianity, Conservatism and the relationship between the two. As a literary point, the satire was also heavy-handed and un-funny, unlike Swift.

Amanda

John, your reading of the book is shallow. The narrator of "The Handmaid's Tale" is not supposed to be a feminist hero, but an Everywoman. Her attraction to the book isn't a feminist statement, but part of her character. It's amusing to me that you want to criticize the book on one hand for being a "feminist tract", but on the other hand you are aggrieved that the characters are complex, as if it were a novel or something. Which it is.

(I wrote my thesis on the book, so I get aggravated by those who think that women are simple-minded, feminism is one-tracked, and a feminist writer cannot be complicated. My thesis had nothing to do with the feminist themes of the novel, by the way. It was about subverting a genre while writing within it.)

Anyway, the whole topic interests me, of course, since I add nearly daily to my ongoing project of mocking women's magazines for lying to women and promoting damaging stereotypes under the guise of "advice", as you know, Hugo.

And John, your odd notion that your notion that the magazines are damaging due to inherent female vanity, well you're just plain off your nut. Women aren't vain for their own pleasure. Female vanity is a sane response to living in a culture where you cannot escape the belief that you are nothing but for your looks.

John

Amanda,

Might I suggest a deep breath and a cup of tea? Then read my comment again, and tell me where I attacked Atwood for being complicated. I don't. My problem is not that it's complicated, but that it's ignorant. It is complicated. It is also a Feminist tract. Yes, she is an Everywoman figure. It's still a Feminist tract. It's not a simple-minded tract, it's a complicated-minded tract. I have no problem with biting and complex characterisation. Try Pope, or Ruth Dudley Edwards. But decent satire must flow from an understanding of that which you are attacking, and Atwood simply has none. She's not stupid. But she is ignorant.

Ditto my comment about the magazines. They do not encourage inherent female vanity. They encourage inherent human vanity. As I said "They feed not only a culture of promiscuity, but a horror of aging, and what amounts to narcissitic idolatry of the ideal body shape. It's obscene that children are dying of Hunger in the Sudan while we worry about wrinkles, bikinis and botox". This applies to men as well. In fact, I agree with you that magazines lie. To both sexes. And they are portraying an ideal world that doesn't exist, to encourage rampant consumerism. Last year, the US spent one quarter of New Zealand's National debt on plastic surgery, encouraged by magazines and TV. This is a bad thing, and if thinking so makes me a nut, then I am a nut. Then again, I consider my brand of Conservative insanity vastly superior to the supposedly sane world we now live in, and more superior still to the Feminist world that you and your blessedly earnest postmodern friends wish to construct for us. If you and Atwood are sanity, Amanda, I shall stay happily insane. ;-)

Jonathan Dresner

I wonder how much of the disagreement over Atwood's novel is a linguistic one? When I think of "satire" I think of funny. But Atwoods work may be more accurately described as "dystopic" which doesn't require that it be funny at all. "Animal Farm" is a satire; "Brave New World" is a dystopic projection.

There's a lot of dystopic literature which is implausible on the face but nonetheless reveals deep strains in the social and political fabric (Bradbury's Farenheit 451, for example) and carries great meaning in its examination of human responses to extreme situations.

John

There might be something in that. It's certainly "projection" of some kind! It's probably more accurate to describe it as you do; it doesn't alter the fact that the premise and message is at once quite amusing and quite hackeneyed, at least to a flesh-and-blood Evangelical. Hence my description of it as a tract; like many bad tracts, it speaks only to the converted. No doubt I am missing hidden depths of Feminist philosophy, but having drawn up a bucket therefrom, I can safely say I am not interested in plumbing them. It would have been better describing Islam, I think-Christianity can be very gothic (See O'Connor, Knox, Calvin, Cromwell or the less-guarded and later work of L M Montgomery, for instance. Even Alcott catches some of it), but the portrayal of Christians and a Fundamentalist government doesn't ring true to me, because she has forced into it a whole heap of ideological baggage, and everything into an epic and stereotyped framework. It can work, but in my opinion, with Atwood, it doesn't.

Jonathan Dresner

That kind of writing rarely does, when you are a member of a group being projected upon; otherwise, it wouldn't be a dystopia, would it? (Are there other dystopias or satires featuring evangelicals that you find more to the point?) Though one can imagine projections that seem utopic to some groups and dystopic to others; White Power stuff comes to mind.

Amanda

Once again, I calmly state something and I am accused of being a hysterical female.

Once you find that you arguing that your arguments must be more reasonable, because you are a man and men are just more reasonable, then you have left the land of reason waaaaay behind. Simply reasserting that it is a tract, even while pretending to understand that merely having a political point of view doesn't make something a tract, doesn't make your case.

I'm going to go bow out to have a nervous breakdown, as we women do when books we like are subject to shallow criticism.

zuzu

I wonder how much of the disagreement over Atwood's novel is a linguistic one? When I think of "satire" I think of funny. But Atwoods work may be more accurately described as "dystopic" which doesn't require that it be funny at all. "Animal Farm" is a satire; "Brave New World" is a dystopic projection.

I agree; it wasn't meant to be funny. And odd that John first states it's "hilarious" then criticizes it for not being funny.

As for reality, it's fiction.

Stephen

"Once again, I calmly state something and I am accused of being a hysterical female."

Where oh where do you read this in John's comments? Yes, he suggests that you calm down but nowhere does he indicate that your gender leads to your state of agitation. When the only tool you have is a hammer . . . ;)

DJW

Well, the "deep breath and a cup of tea" registers at least a little bit on the condescension scale, especially in reply to a post with a fairly simple point simply stated and nary an exclaimation point.

Gender aside, it's a pretty annoying rhetorical manouver to begin your reply to those you disagree with by telling them to "calm down." When I was a teenager, and somewhat evil, I intentionally used this manouver whenever I wanted to get my younger sister really pissed off. I don't do it anymore.

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