"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Cool Girl


“Los derechos de la mujer" / "The Rights of Women"
two slightly different versions
both by Colombian artist Debora Arango (1907 – 2005)
Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellin, Colombia

If you happened to read Gone Girl a couple of years ago when it was all the rage, then you know all about "Cool Girl," right?
Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)

~ by Gillian Flynn
Or you can go with the one - sentence version
from the 1983 movie Terms of Endearment:
"You're my sweet - assed gal."

"Cool Girl" is a descendant of "sweet - assed gal" and a product of "raunch culture" as defined in 2005 by Ariel Levy. In Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, Levy summarizes a constellation of troubling insights garnered from numerous interviews:
This new raunch culture didn't mark the death of feminism, they told me; it was evidence that the feminist project had already been achieved. We'd earned the right to look at Playboy; we were empowered enough to get Brazilian bikini waxes. Women had come so far, I learned, we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny. Instead, it was time for us to join the frat party of pop culture, where men had been enjoying themselves all along. If Male Chauvinist Pigs were men who regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves.

When I asked female viewers and readers what they got out of raunch culture, I heard similar things about empowering miniskirts and feminist strippers, and so on, but I also heard something else. They wanted to be "one of the guys"; they hoped to be experienced "like a man." Going to strip clubs or talking about porn stars was a way of showing themselves and the men around them that they weren't "prissy little women" or "girly-girls." Besides, they told me, it was all in fun, all tongue-in-cheek, and for me to regard this bacchanal as problematic would be old-school and uncool.

I tried to get with the program, but I could never make the argument add up in my head. How is resurrecting every stereotype of female sexuality that feminism endeavored to banish good for women? Why is laboring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering? And how is imitating a stripper or a porn star -- a woman whose job is to imitate arousal in the first place -- going to render us sexually liberated?

. . . "Raunchy" and "liberated" are not synonyms. It is worth asking ourselves if this bawdy world . . . reflects how far we've come, or how far we have left to go.
(3 - 5)
Way back before reading Gone Girl or Female Chauvinist Pigs, I vented to a friend:

I've been obsessing all day after my unfortunate experience last night of watching the supposedly humorous British discussion show Eight out of Ten Cats, all male except for one woman on the panel, and Rachel Riely as mathematician / co - host. I hope it's not a favorite of yours. If so, forgive me as I rant about the embarrassing sex objectification, such as the opening joke that Riley is the reason that all men out in TV land have to watch the show with a pillow on their lap. I blushed in shame, but the men in my family -- and Rachel herself! -- just laughed right along with all the other male chauvinist pigs. Can you believe? I tried to point out that this kind of humor (such as the tasteless Churchill joke that I discussed last month) gives women in the audience three choices
1. be one of the guys, guffaw guffaw

2. assume that you too are a sex object, valued for your ability to give men hard - ons

3. know that you are in some other sub - category of women who are no longer -- or have never been -- considered sexually desirable -- so no worries, right?
I said to them that for any self - respecting woman, these are three equally uncomfortable choices, but they disagreed.

One son said that for the woman to laugh at the joke -- and, even better, to draw a picture of a penis on the chalk board when she was instructed to do so by the uncouth men on the panel -- just shows how confident she is in her sexuality -- not that she has somehow been duped into participating in her own prostitution or that she mistakenly thinks she's making an empowered choice to indulge in a little light - hearted sexism every now and then. On the other hand, a woman (such as myself) who does not find this funny must be lacking confidence in her sexuality.
Ariel Levy refers to this as "the current accepted wisdom that . . . The only alternative to enjoying [raunch culture] is being 'uncomfortable' with and 'embarrassed' about your sexuality. Raunch culture, then, isn't an entertainment option, it's a litmus test of female uptightness." (Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, 40)
The other son insists that his extremely intelligent female peers (Cool Girls?) would find it just as funny as the guys do (can this be true?); and Gerry's response, "What's the harm?" I could almost cry non - stop in total frustration. Hopeless! How could I be such a total failure as a feminist mother of sons? This nasty culture that we live in is just sooooooooo much stronger than I am. These stupid British jokes are not funny! They are harmful! But -- oh no -- I just look like the humorless high - strung mousy midwestern bitch.

Well, maybe I am. Could that be it? It is true that I didn't really care for The Producers when it came to Purdue a few years ago. If our theatre friends would be shocked at my lack of savvy, just don't tell them that I hate this musical, okay? And if it's one of your favs, please forgive me; you know my failings. And don't worry -- I know it has some strong points.

Gerry told me the next day that the couple we went with "enjoyed it very much." Hmmmm. I could believe it of the husband, but not entirely of the wife. I've always had the feeling (from our child - rearing practices, etc.) that she is rather more conservative than I. Would she really enjoy an evening of women being pinched on the butt and leered at and guffawed at? Would she really consider that to be "satire," as some viewers and reviewers suggest. My only question was "satire of what?" Sorry, I couldn't see this as satire; I think it was the real thing (in frat boy manner of Jay Leno). It takes Colbert to provide the satire. If I remember correctly, satire means "poking fun with intent to change," not "poking fun with intent to poke fun" (or as one amazon reviewer wrote, making merry at the expense of women and gays). Ben heard me out as I complained about all the people who are ridiculed in this play -- the young, the old, the fat, and so forth. His response: "Mom, everyone knows about this show -- you just didn't do your homework. Besides, I didn't like the way it made fun of accountants." Okay, I had to laugh! See, I haven't completely lost my sense of humor, just nearly.

I have to keep in mind, however, that although the neighbor we went with may have been more conservative than I, she's also a better PR person (if not a Cool Girl). Her "reset button" (see below*), might allow her to say -- whether she meant it or not -- "Oh ah ha ha, wasn't that delightful?!" with greater ease than I could ever muster. I'm also feeling weird here about my use of the word "conservative." Isn't it actually because I'm more radical (i.e., desiring change at the root) that I find the Austin Powers blow - job humor offensive?
As Levy points out: " . . . If the rise of raunch seems counterintuitive because we hear so much about being in a conservative moment, it actually makes perfect sense when we think about it. Raunch culture is not essentially progressive, it is essentially commercial. By going to strip clubs and flashing on spring break and ogling our Olympians in "Playboy," [or watching a mathematician draw a giant penis on a chalk board] it's not as though we are embracing something liberal -- this isn't Free Love. Raunch culture isn't about opening our minds to the possibilities and mysteries of sexuality. It's about endlessly reiterating one particular -- and particularly commercial -- shorthand for sexiness." (Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, 29 - 30)
In my experience, it's a conservative audience (both men and women) who still find those sexual stereotypes and allusions funny -- just say "bum" and you've made their day; or tell them British comedian David Jason's repulsive joke that he could "see a woman's point -- but only for a moment as she was getting out of the car" -- meaning that he looked up her dress, get it? Not that he grasped some intellectual point that she was making in conversation. Really? Adult women find this funny? Apparently some do. Others, of course, would have been offended out of prudishness and because of the impropriety. Yes, my distaste stems in part from those same mores, but from something else as well -- from a MS Magazine "No comment" sense of outrage; and from my New Woman's Broken Heart (in manner of Andrea Dworkin). I am well aware that unfortunately my stance of deep anger and profound sadness is often interpreted as merely prudish rather than political. Sometimes I hate living on this sexist planet. How long, oh Goddess?

In conclusion, my perception - affirming friend offered the following: "I hate the show, so no worries, and The Producers as a film was funny because of Mostel and Wilder but sexist in its premise of bilking women who need a fancy man and will pay for it. You're not a failure as a feminist mother -- how do we fight patriarchal culture and the bastion of testosterone? Never forget that the culture impacts us, that we're not simply moving through with clarity, no matter how intelligent or elevated we are spiritually. Why would your family be any different? You're right to have the rant. It's 2013, not 1973. That shit isn't funny anymore. Be the rebel. Speak out. It's not being conservative -- they don't come from a place of equality but of repression. Objectification isn't funny, and choosing it isn't independence."


* "He discovered his reset button early on & there were not many
things that bothered him all the rest of his days just because of that."

-- Brian Andreas, from StoryPeople
("re - set button" = the "oh well" function
Needless to say, mine is often in need of repair!)

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, December 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT ~ Don't Look Up My Dress!
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading


  1. Note from January 2007: Hope I'm not driving you crazy! I just hated something that I read in some movie review the other day about the girl always getting the guy in the end -- the reviewer said that this kind of plot was okay again because -- the tide of feminism has crested and receded! I just don't want that to be true -- not after we tried so hard in the 70s & 80s. I want us to be able to leave this world better than we found it -- not just the same!

    If you can bear to listen to me rant and rave, I am having one of those Woman's Room evenings where I feel like the crazy one for thinking that the dishes will dry themselves. Last night we went to campus to see THE PRODUCERS -- big mistake. If only I had done a bit of background research, I would have known that this was not the show for me. I can't even express the details without sounding like an irrational Napoleon Dynamite hater; maybe later. In the meantime, I can't get my brain to stop analyzing why this negative but entirely insignificant experience is ALL MY FAULT, why my reaction is NOT irrational, why I had to spoil it for my family and make them mad at me, and on and on and on. Then I go out to shovel the snow, and I start reliving that whole horrible lawsuit issue concerning our sidewalk in Philadelphia, then I read Molly Ivins' obituary and start weeping. Thanks Vickie for your patience with my craziness and for your friendship . . . alive and somewhere breathing like a song.