Thursday, June 23, 2011

What She Said

Readers may remember that about six months ago, FLG argued that women care more about what others people think of them than men and that this makes them more unhappy. The basic problem is that "basing your personal happiness on the approval, admiration, or acceptance of other people is a futile task" and women seem to do that more. Moreover, that the typical response is a juvenile inflating the self-esteem balloon exercise.

It looks like Isabel Archer is on a similar wavelength:
The orthodox feminist response to pieces like Grose's is usually to say that women ought to strive for "self-acceptance" at whatever weight they are at. This is sort of true, but also sort of wrong. What ought to be feminists' goal should be something like a mental mini-version of Virginia Woolf's Room of One's Own. I've struggled with how to put this as this post languishes in Save as Draft form, but the broad idea is that there ought to be mental space away from the need to please men. The self-acceptance people remind me too much of the dreadful middle school workshops on body image where we had to stand around and recite affirmations like "I love the body the way I am." It sounded craven, ridiculous, and redolent of fundamentalist religious cults that sensible adults were generally urging me not to join. No, what I want for young girls like my high school friend is something like the ability to shut off the repeated voice saying "You ought to be burning calories!" in favor of a voice saying "Yes, but one has to do work now." By the grace of work, by the knowledge that work is important, the burning calories voice then yields to the work voice. And only in doing so does one ever attain the kind of incandescence that Woolf prized. There's no self-acceptance in her vision of incandescence; one becomes a vessel of something else in Woolf's vision, and the self sort of fades away entirely. Modern feminists would do better to cast their arguments about body image anxieties in terms of "These worries are a distraction from the pursuit of incandescence," rather than to focus on the goofy cult rituals about "self-acceptance."

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