Miércoles 9 de Noviembre de 2005, Ip nº 134

What's a Modern Girl to Do?
Por Maureen Dowd

When I entered college in 1969, women were bursting out of their 50's chrysalis, shedding girdles, padded bras and conventions. The Jazz Age spirit flared in the Age of Aquarius. Women were once again imitating men and acting all independent: smoking, drinking, wanting to earn money and thinking they had the right to be sexual, this time protected by the pill. I didn't fit in with the brazen new world of hard-charging feminists. I was more of a fun-loving (if chaste) type who would decades later come to life in Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw. I hated the grubby, unisex jeans and no-makeup look and drugs that zoned you out, and I couldn't understand the appeal of dances that didn't involve touching your partner. In the universe of Eros, I longed for style and wit. I loved the Art Deco glamour of 30's movies. I wanted to dance the Continental like Fred and Ginger in white hotel suites; drink martinis like Myrna Loy and William Powell; live the life of a screwball heroine like Katharine Hepburn, wearing a gold lamé gown cut on the bias, cavorting with Cary Grant, strolling along Fifth Avenue with my pet leopard.

My mom would just shake her head and tell me that my idea of the 30's was wildly romanticized. "We were poor," she'd say. "We didn't dance around in white hotel suites." I took the idealism and passion of the 60's for granted, simply assuming we were sailing toward perfect equality with men, a utopian world at home and at work. I didn't listen to her when she cautioned me about the chimera of equality.

On my 31st birthday, she sent me a bankbook with a modest nest egg she had saved for me. "I always felt that the girls in a family should get a little more than the boys even though all are equally loved," she wrote in a letter. "They need a little cushion to fall back on. Women can stand on the Empire State Building and scream to the heavens that they are equal to men and liberated, but until they have the same anatomy, it's a lie. It's more of a man's world today than ever. Men can eat their cake in unlimited bakeries."

I thought she was just being Old World, like my favorite jade, Dorothy Parker, when she wrote:

By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying -
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

I thought the struggle for egalitarianism was a cinch, so I could leave it to my earnest sisters in black turtlenecks and Birkenstocks. I figured there was plenty of time for me to get serious later, that America would always be full of passionate and full-throated debate about the big stuff - social issues, sexual equality, civil rights. Little did I realize that the feminist revolution would have the unexpected consequence of intensifying the confusion between the sexes, leaving women in a tangle of dependence and independence as they entered the 21st century.

Maybe we should have known that the story of women's progress would be more of a zigzag than a superhighway, that the triumph of feminism would last a nanosecond while the backlash lasted 40years.

Despite the best efforts of philosophers, politicians, historians, novelists, screenwriters, linguists, therapists, anthropologists and facilitators, men and women are still in a muddle in the boardroom, the bedroom and the Situation Room.

Courtship

My mom gave me three essential books on the subject of men. The first, when I was 13, was "On Becoming a Woman." The second, when I was 21, was "365 Ways to Cook Hamburger." The third, when I was 25, was "How to Catch and Hold a Man," by Yvonne Antelle. ("Keep thinking of yourself as a soft, mysterious cat.. . .Men are fascinated by bright, shiny objects, by lots of curls, lots of hair on the head . . . by bows, ribbons, ruffles and bright colors.. . .Sarcasm is dangerous. Avoid it altogether.")

Because I received "How to Catch and Hold a Man" at a time when we were entering the Age of Equality, I put it aside as an anachronism. After all, sometime in the 1960's flirting went out of fashion, as did ironing boards, makeup and the idea that men needed to be "trapped" or "landed." The way to approach men, we reasoned, was forthrightly and without games, artifice or frills. Unfortunately, history has shown this to be a misguided notion.

I knew it even before the 1995 publication of "The Rules," a dating bible that encouraged women to return to prefeminist mind games by playing hard to get. ("Don't stay on the phone for more than 10 minutes.. . .Even if you are the head of your own company. . .when you're with a man you like, be quiet and mysterious, act ladylike, cross your legs and smile.. . .Wear black sheer pantyhose and hike up your skirt to entice the opposite sex!")

I knew this before fashion magazines became crowded with crinolines, bows, ruffles, leopard-skin scarves, 50's party dresses and other sartorial equivalents of flirting and with articles like "The Return of Hard to Get." ("I think it behooves us to stop offering each other these pearls of feminism, to stop saying, 'So, why don't you call him?"' a writer lectured in Mademoiselle. "Some men must have the thrill of the chase.")

(...)

Today, women have gone back to hunting their quarry - in person and in cyberspace - with elaborate schemes designed to allow the deluded creatures to think they are the hunters. "Men like hunting, and we shouldn't deprive them of their chance to do their hunting and mating rituals," my 26-year-old friend Julie Bosman, a New York Times reporter, says. "As my mom says, Men don't like to be chased." Or as the Marvelettes sang, "The hunter gets captured by the game."

(...)

Money

In those faraway, long-ago days of feminism, there was talk about equal pay for equal work. Now there's talk about "girl money."

A friend of mine in her 30's says it is a term she hears bandied about the New York dating scene. She also notes a shift in the type of gifts given at wedding showers around town, a reversion to 50's-style offerings: soup ladles and those frilly little aprons from Anthropologie and vintage stores are being unwrapped along with see-through nighties and push-up bras.

"What I find most disturbing about the 1950's-ification and retrogression of women's lives is that it has seeped into the corporate and social culture, where it can do real damage," she complains. "Otherwise intelligent men, who know women still earn less than men as a rule, say things like: 'I'll get the check. You only have girl money."'

(...)

Now dating etiquette has reverted. Young women no longer care about using the check to assert their equality. They care about using it to assess their sexuality. Going Dutch is an archaic feminist relic. Young women talk about it with disbelief and disdain. "It's a scuzzy 70's thing, like platform shoes on men," one told me.

"Feminists in the 70's went overboard," Anne Schroeder, a 26-year-old magazine editor in Washington, agrees. "Paying is like opening a car door. It's nice. I appreciate it. But he doesn't have to."

Unless he wants another date.

Women in their 20's think old-school feminists looked for equality in all the wrong places, that instead of fighting battles about whether women should pay for dinner or wear padded bras they should have focused only on big economic issues.

(...)

Power Dynamics

At a party for the Broadway opening of "Sweet Smell of Success," a top New York producer gave me a lecture on the price of female success that was anything but sweet. He confessed that he had wanted to ask me out on a date when he was between marriages but nixed the idea because my job as a Times columnist made me too intimidating. Men, he explained, prefer women who seem malleable and awed. He predicted that I would never find a mate because if there's one thing men fear, it's a woman who uses her critical faculties. Will she be critical of absolutely everything, even his manhood?

He had hit on a primal fear of single successful women: that the aroma of male power is an aphrodisiac for women, but the perfume of female power is a turnoff for men. It took women a few decades to realize that everything they were doing to advance themselves in the boardroom could be sabotaging their chances in the bedroom, that evolution was lagging behind equality.

(...)

So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? Do women get less desirable as they get more successful?

After I first wrote on this subject, a Times reader named Ray Lewis e-mailed me. While we had assumed that making ourselves more professionally accomplished would make us more fascinating, it turned out, as Lewis put it, that smart women were "draining at times."

(...)

Women moving up still strive to marry up. Men moving up still tend to marry down. The two sexes' going in opposite directions has led to an epidemic of professional women missing out on husbands and kids.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the author of "Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children," a book published in 2002, conducted a survey and found that 55 percent of 35-year-old career women were childless. And among corporate executives who earn $100,000 or more, she said, 49 percent of the women did not have children, compared with only 19 percent of the men.

(...)

Ms. Versus Mrs.

"Ms." was supposed to neutralize the stature of women, so they weren't publicly defined by their marital status. When The Times finally agreed to switch to Ms. in its news pages in 1986, after much hectoring by feminists, Gloria Steinem sent flowers to the executive editor, Abe Rosenthal. But nowadays most young brides want to take their husbands' names and brag on the moniker Mrs., a brand that proclaims you belong to him. T-shirts with "MRS." emblazoned in sequins or sparkly beads are popular wedding-shower gifts.

A Harvard economics professor, Claudia Goldin, did a study last year that found that 44 percent of women in the Harvard class of 1980 who married within 10 years of graduation kept their birth names, while in the class of '90 it was down to 32 percent. In 1990, 23 percent of college-educated women kept their own names after marriage, while a decade later the number had fallen to 17 percent.

Time magazine reported that an informal poll in the spring of 2005 by the Knot, a wedding Web site, showed similar results: 81 percent of respondents took their spouse's last name, an increase from 71 percent in 2000. The number of women with hyphenated surnames fell from 21 percent to 8 percent.

"It's a return to romance, a desire to make marriage work," Goldin told one interviewer, adding that young women might feel that by keeping their own names they were aligning themselves with tedious old-fashioned feminists, and this might be a turnoff to them.

(...)

Many women now do not think of domestic life as a "comfortable concentration camp," as Betty Friedan wrote in "The Feminine Mystique," where they are losing their identities and turning into "anonymous biological robots in a docile mass." Now they want to be Mrs. Anonymous Biological Robot in a Docile Mass. They dream of being rescued - to flirt, to shop, to stay home and be taken care of. They shop for "Stepford Fashions" - matching shoes and ladylike bags and the 50's-style satin, lace and chiffon party dresses featured in InStyle layouts - and spend their days at the gym trying for Wisteria Lane waistlines.

The Times recently ran a front-page article about young women attending Ivy League colleges, women who are being groomed to take their places in the professional and political elite, who are planning to reject careers in favor of playing traditional roles, staying home and raising children.

(...)

Movies

In all those Tracy-Hepburn movies more than a half-century ago, it was the snap and crackle of a romance between equals that was so exciting. You still see it onscreen occasionally - the incendiary chemistry of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie playing married assassins aiming for mutually assured orgasms and destruction in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Interestingly, that movie was described as retro because of its salty battle of wits between two peppery lovers. Moviemakers these days are more interested in exploring what Steve Martin, in his novel "Shopgirl," calls the "calm cushion" of romances between unequals.

In James Brooks's movie "Spanglish," Adam Sandler, playing a sensitive Los Angeles chef, falls for his hot Mexican maid, just as in "Maid in Manhattan," Ralph Fiennes, playing a sensitive New York pol, falls for the hot Latino maid at his hotel, played by Jennifer Lopez. Sandler's maid, who cleans up for him without being able to speak English, is presented as the ideal woman, in looks and character. His wife, played by Téa Leoni, is repellent: a jangly, yakking, overachieving, overexercised, unfaithful, shallow she-monster who has just lost her job with a commercial design firm and fears she has lost her identity.

In 2003, we had "Girl With a Pearl Earring," in which Colin Firth's Vermeer erotically paints Scarlett Johansson's Dutch maid, and Richard Curtis's "Love Actually," about the attraction of unequals. The witty and sophisticated British prime minister, played by Hugh Grant, falls for the chubby girl who wheels the tea and scones into his office. A businessman married to the substantial Emma Thompson, the sister of the prime minister, falls for his sultry secretary. A novelist played by Colin Firth falls for his maid, who speaks only Portuguese.

Art is imitating life, turning women who seek equality into selfish narcissists and objects of rejection rather than of affection.

(...)

Women's Magazines

Cosmo is still the best-selling magazine on college campuses, as it was when I was in college, and the best-selling monthly magazine on the newsstand. The June 2005 issue, with Jessica Simpson on the cover, her cleavage spilling out of an orange crocheted halter dress, could have been June 1970. The headlines are familiar: "How to turn him on in 10 words or less," "Do You Make Men M-E-L-T? Take our quiz," "Bridal Special," Cosmo's stud search and "Cosmo's Most Famous Sex Tips; the Legendary Tricks That Have Brought Countless Guys to Their Knees." (Sex Trick 4: "Place a glazed doughnut around your man's member, then gently nibble the pastry and lick the icing . . . as well as his manhood." Another favorite Cosmo trick is to yell out during sex which of your girlfriends thinks your man is hot.)

At any newsstand, you'll see the original Cosmo girl's man-crazy, sex-obsessed image endlessly, tiresomely replicated, even for the teen set. On the cover of Elle Girl: "267 Ways to Look Hot."

(...)

It took only a few decades to create a brazen new world where the highest ideal is to acknowledge your inner slut. I am woman; see me strip. Instead of peaceful havens of girl things and boy things, we have a society where women of all ages are striving to become self-actualized sex kittens. Hollywood actresses now work out by taking pole-dancing classes.

Female sexuality has been a confusing corkscrew path, not a serene progressive arc. We had decades of Victorian prudery, when women were not supposed to like sex. Then we had the pill and zipless encounters, when women were supposed to have the same animalistic drive as men. Then it was discovered - shock, horror! - that men and women are not alike in their desires. But zipless morphed into hookups, and the more one-night stands the girls on "Sex and the City" had, the grumpier they got.

(...)

And the Future . . .

Having boomeranged once, will women do it again in a couple of decades? If we flash forward to 2030, will we see all those young women who thought trying to Have It All was a pointless slog, now middle-aged and stranded in suburbia, popping Ativan, struggling with rebellious teenagers, deserted by husbands for younger babes, unable to get back into a work force they never tried to be part of?

It's easy to picture a surreally familiar scene when women realize they bought into a raw deal and old trap. With no power or money or independence, they'll be mere domestic robots, lasering their legs and waxing their floors - or vice versa - and desperately seeking a new Betty Friedan.

For reading the complete article click here.


  30/10/2005. The New York Times.


Comentarios

No hay comentarios sobre este artículo.

Tenés que estar registrado para enviar comentarios. Registrate aquí.

Si ya te registraste, ingresá tu Usuario y Contraseña aquí:
E-mail:
Contraseña: