There is a trick to writing like this, putting an enormous amount of content and meaning into relatively few words. Over the last few weeks others have noted that the argument over whether insurance companies and by proxy, employers should provide a full range of health care services to their employees, is a civil rights issue. One can easily imagine the national uproar if employers decided they would deduct portions of your compensation ( insurance is part of your pay) for everything they heard you bought that they did not approve of. We’ll take off a few dollars this week because we saw you at the store buying video games and condoms. The next week they take off a few dollars because they saw you reading 1984 or riding in a hybrid car – real Americans drive gas guzzlers and only read Bible verses. Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding
“What a spectacle,” Pamela exclaimed, “Virginia, the birthplace of the slave breeding industry in America, is debating state-sanctioned rape. Imagine the woman who says No to this as a prerequisite for abortion. Will she be strapped down, her ankles shackled to stir-ups?”
“I suspect,” said I, “that partisans would say, ‘If she doesn’t agree, she is free to leave.’?”
“Right, which means she is coerced into childbearing or coerced into taking other measures to terminate her pregnancy, which may or may not be safe. Or she relents and says Yes, and that’s by coercion, too.”
“Scratch at modern life and there’s a little slave era just below the surface, so we’re right back to your argument.”
Pamela Bridgewater’s argument, expressed over the past several years in articles and forums, and at the heart of a book in final revision called Breeding a Nation: Reproductive Slavery and the Pursuit of Freedom, presents the most compelling conceptual and constitutional frame I know for considering women’s bodily integrity and defending it from the right.
[ ]….We don’t commonly recognize that American slaveholders supported closing the trans-Atlantic slave trade; that they did so to protect the domestic market, boosting their own nascent breeding operation. Women were the primary focus: their bodies, their “stock,” their reproductive capacity, their issue. Planters advertised for them in the same way as they did for breeding cows or mares, in farm magazines and catalogs. They shared tips with one another on how to get maximum value out of their breeders. They sold or lent enslaved men as studs and were known to lock teenage boys and girls together to mate in a kind of bullpen.They propagated new slaves themselves, and allowed their sons to, and had their physicians exploit female anatomy while working to suppress African midwives’ practice in areas of fertility, contraception and abortion.Reproduction and its control became the planters’ prerogative and profit source. Women could try to escape, ingest toxins or jump out a window—abortion by suicide, except it was hardly a sure thing.
In long reads – Great American Losers
Put aside for a moment the blatant condescension of that last bit, and you can see an amazingly frank expression of anxiety about female readers. No one wants to be called a penis with a thesaurus. For an English-language novelist, raised and educated and self-consciously steeped in the tradition of the Anglo-American novel, in which female characters, female writers, and female readers have had a huge part, the prospect of not being able to write for female readers is a crisis. What kind of novelist are you if women aren’t reading your books? This is a crisis that the GMNs (“Great Male Narcissists”)themselves did not face (their own female contemporaries read their books avidly). Wallace is identifying a sea change in the next generation of female readers. These women are not only children of divorce, but children of a feminist movement that had an especially profound influence on cultural criticism.
[ ]…If there is something disingenuous about the American loser, it’s that in telling his story the writers substitute a kind of burlesque of total humiliation for a more measured sense of the character’s humility. Which is to say that the new generation of characters is, in its own way, also self-absorbed. How else to describe their loving scrutiny of all their faults? While their self-absorption is sharply criticized by author and fellow characters, it is reinforced by the very structure of the novels (with the exception of Franzen’s). Female characters get to remind the hero that he’s a navel-gazing jerk, but most of the good lines, and certainly the brilliant social and psychological observations, still go to the hero. The problem is not that he doesn’t share the spotlight, per se, but the subtle sense that a transaction is taking place: the hero is entitled to the spotlight because he has been appropriately self-critical—it’s his novel, bought and paid for with all those jokes at his own expense. The male novelists performing elaborate genuflections toward female readers are perhaps not exactly bargaining so much as trying to draw us into a new contract: I, the author, promise always to acknowledge my characters’ narcissism, and you, in return, will continue to take an interest in it. Okay? Agreed? Sign on the dotted line please, Ms., and I will countersign my book for you.
Male writers from post WW II to present take quite a beating and I have to agree that most of it is deserved – especially in the case of Mailer and even more so for Updike. Though all of them said some things, made some observations worth reading – insights that blurred the universal and the personal. To save some time on Updike just read Rabbit Redux – his best novel. There is a problem though. What could male writers write about – especially when they write about men – that would make a serious female reader happy. I don’t know which gender has more crap bumping around inside their minds. For either gender to reveal what is really there, whether in gloomy seriousness or tragic-comedy or satire is to shine a spotlight on some thoughts that do not reflect well on the human species. Much of it certainly is not profound. It is some obsessive sexual thoughts, a mix of love and neurosis about their parents – and that’s if they were lucky and did not grow up in some little tribe of poppy growers in Afghanistan. Luckily some of the thoughts banging off the sides of our skulls are not all that bad – we generally like puppies, we’re thirsty, we’re tired, that was funny, I hope my spouse gets that rise. The rest of it is stuff we keep hidden. Some of it in a lock box that we go to our graves never revealing. If good writing is shaping those thoughts into interesting prose most of it will not met anyone’s criteria for cultural correctness because that is not an accurate picture of human nature.
pink flamingo mailbox or pictures that I find disturbing.
Who Pays the Bill for Wall Street’s Mess? or Paul Ryan (R-WI) Has a Disturbing Plan for The Middle-Class.
Obama vs. Romney Tax Plans in a Very Tall Graph. The legend goes that it is the first million that is the most difficult to make. The vast majority of Americans will never have that much in liquid assets their entire lives. If you start of with quite a bit, like the Romneys and Koch brothers, you have to be a brain dead moron not to be able t use that to make more. The Romney plan rewards those that glue their ass to a leather chair and spread sheet to figure out ways to make even more money from the labor of others. In other times this would be called monarchical government or fascism-lite, nowadays we call it conservatism.
Bob Dylan – What Was It You Wanted