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Tue, Feb. 1st, 2005, 12:52 pm
Putting It Better Than I Could

"To write is a glorious but bold activity; the writer is an 'artist', one recognizes that he is entitled to a little bohemianism . . . . But make no mistake: let no women believe they can take advantage of this pact without having first submitted to the eternal statute of womanhood. Women are on the earth to give children to men; let them write as much as they like, let them decorate their condition, but above all, let them not depart from it . . . let them pay immediately, by tribute of their motherhood, for this bohemianism which has a natural link with a writer's life. Women, be therefore courageous and free; play at being men, write like them, but never get far from them; live under their gaze, compensate for your books by your children; enjoy a free rein for a while, but quickly come back to your condition."

This would be less depressing if he weren't still fairly accurately describing the way things work for women.

Me, I'd rather have books than children.

Tue, Feb. 1st, 2005 06:29 pm (UTC)

is this quotation meant to be a descriptive or a prescriptive statement?

i am currently trying to balance my semi-morbid curiosity concerning whether he has any justification for this stance other than "because i feel like it" and my preexisting disinclination for ever reading Barthes. i've got one of his books, on the subject of taste (La Distinction, if memory serves)... oh no, wait a sec, that's Bourdieu. i take it back, i have no Barthes, and i don't aspire to.

Tue, Feb. 1st, 2005 06:57 pm (UTC)

It's meant to be descriptive, and highly critical. Which is something I can really get behind.

Why don't you want to read Barthes? I've never read him before & am surprised at how much I am enjoying it. Mythologies has plenty of nice short pieces which are easy to engage with and will leave you thinking, but won't make you plow through three hundred pages to get to his point. Which, after Mills last week, is bloody virtuous of him. :)

Tue, Feb. 1st, 2005 07:27 pm (UTC)

well, frankly, because i had the impression that he was wordy and rather irrelevant to anything. :) the piece of his that i disliked least was a paean to the Citröen DS, which seemed light-hearted and somewhat self-parodying. consider the last sentence:
The object here is totally prostituted, appropriated: originating from the heaven of Metropolis , the Goddess is in a quarter of an hour mediatized, actualizing through this exorcism the very essence of petit-bourgeois advancement.
the idea that someone could write that sentence and mean it completely seriously fills my soul with a creeping, shapeless horror.

my opinion of him improves somewhat at the news that his original statement was meant to be a criticism of the status quo; otherwise i would be inclined to dig him up and make him read A Room Of One's Own.


Tue, Feb. 1st, 2005 07:45 pm (UTC)

HAHAHAHA, he said "actualizing" in his essay! And "prostitutized" and "mediatiezed!"

God DAMN, I almost miss all those rediculous readings from art theory/criticism class. You want a lot of dumb-ass made up words by self-important intellectual snobs, you go read some feminist crticism of, say, gay turn of the century photographic trends. I tried really hard to get mad at those people, but it was just too gorram funny.

Tue, Feb. 1st, 2005 08:33 pm (UTC)

That new user icon is scary, dude.

Tue, Feb. 1st, 2005 07:30 pm (UTC)

on another note, i had been meaning to check in with you wrt the children issue: i seem to recall that your major objection was to the actual act of parturition, but also that that discussion was a few years ago. what's your current position, if you don't mind me being nosy?


Tue, Feb. 1st, 2005 10:10 pm (UTC)

Current position, in a nutshell: raising kids is a more-than-full-time job, and one I wouldn't do even if I got paid for it. I like kids and would love to have kids in my life, but having kids that I am primarily responsible for is never going to happen. Of course, it helps that the boy is willing to be the primary caregiver for any kids we might have, but it's still a major question as to whether I'll ever choose to have any. Kids are pretty low on the list of "things I'd like to commit twenty years of my life to."

On an emotional level, having a child feels, to me, like it would be the end of my life. And that feeling isn't good for me or for any hypothetical children who might be involved.

Wed, Feb. 2nd, 2005 04:21 pm (UTC)

indeed - certainly makes me think. thanks!

Wed, Feb. 2nd, 2005 03:50 am (UTC)

That quote sparks my usual response, which is to blink in confusion and say, "Oh, am I supposed to be feeling that way? Oops. Sometimes I forget to notice I'm being oppressed. I'm too busy just charging merrily forward."

i.e., I have a near-miraculous tendency to blindly steamroller over such attitudes without noticing them. Whether this makes me a good feminist or a bad one seems to depend on whom you ask.

Wed, Feb. 2nd, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC)

Huh. Would I be a bad person if I suggested that not noticing these attitudes might hurt you when it comes to opposing the very real ways in which they're going to affect your life, like it or not? I think it's great that you aren't feeling the self-doubt and questioning that I sometimes do over these issues, but it ultimately comes down to practical questions like, for example, who will write the books and who will raise the kids.

(I have a very complicated relationship with all this stuff; it's like the pea under my mattresses. It really shouldn't bother me, but it does.)

Wed, Feb. 2nd, 2005 05:44 pm (UTC)

Oh, I won't argue against what you say. And there are points where I notice; I'm sure that, were I to begin considering children in a serious way, I would have to address these issues. What I tend to be more oblivious to is these attitudes on the outside -- other people who maybe think I ought to be having kids or whatever instead of writing and being an academic, for example. I'm sure some of my teachers in school had the "girls can't do math and science" attitude; I only ever noticed one of them (because he was the proverbial pink elephant in the corner -- kind of hard to miss).

Wed, Feb. 2nd, 2005 06:21 pm (UTC)

Ah, see, that's lovely: you're terribly lucky that the people you value don't have those attitudes, and that the people who have those attitudes aren't in a position to screw with your life. I think I may just have to envy you a little more than I already do.

Thu, Feb. 3rd, 2005 12:33 am (UTC)

<wince> Sorry. I completely forgot to think about context before I shot my mouth off.

Thu, Feb. 3rd, 2005 05:23 pm (UTC)

Oh, hey, no worries. It's always nice to be reminded that my situation may not be a totally ordinary one. It's easy to normalize pretty much anything, you know?