Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Problems With Names Like Frida and Carrie

Sandra Loh breaks it down:

Is the mass media to blame (again!) for pushing women out of the workplace? Not so much. On our zeitgeist-setting TV shows, it's only the housewives who are desperate. Work is fun! The Manhattan working gals of Sex and the City, whose days revolve chiefly around dishing over cocktails, are essentially '50s suburban housewives, trophy wives of (in this case) glamorous if emotionally distant New York jobs -- skyscraper-housed entities with good addresses and doormen that handsomely fund their lifestyles while requiring that they show up to service them only infrequently, in bustiers and heels. I want a vague job like the one Charlotte has, in the art gallery she never goes to; or the lawyer job Miranda has (charcoal suits and plenty o' time for lunch with the gals); or Samantha's PR gig, throwing SoHo loft parties and giving blow jobs to freakishly endowed men (actually, that's the one job I don't want); I want to spend my days like "writer" Carrie, lolling in bed in her underwear, smoking and occasionally updating her quasi-bohemian equivalent of a MySpace page.

In real life, female journalists (particularly sex columnists) have frightening stalkers, dour editors who begin phone conversations with "This is not your best," and paychecks so thin they trigger not just an amusing episode in which some Jimmy Choos must be returned but years of fluorescent-lit subway rides to a part-time job teaching ESL at some community college on Long Island. In an ugly if typical turn, one's column is suddenly moved from the Manhattan section to the North Jersey "auto buy" section because of the arrival of a younger, hotter writer. In real life, workmen would unceremoniously peel Carrie's ad off the side of the bus and replace it with an ad touting the peppy new relationship blog of Miley Cyrus.


Why aren't the women who are outnumbering men in undergraduate institutions leading the information economy? "Because they're dabbling," [Linda Hershman] snaps. Here's yet another Problem That Has a Name: Frida Kahlo.

Everybody loves Frida Kahlo. Half Jewish, half Mexican, tragically injured when young, sexually linked to men and women, abused by a famous genius husband. Oh, and a brilliantly talented painter. If I was a feminazi, the first thing I'd ban would be books about Frida Kahlo. Because Frida Kahlo's life is not a model for women's lives. And if you're not Frida Kahlo and you major in art, you're going to wind up answering the phones at some gallery in Chelsea, hoping a rich male collector comes to rescue you.


Gavin said...

"But in fact, Hirshman insists, the problem starts well before motherhood. It begins when young women enter college and violate Hirshman's No. 1 rule of female emancipation: 'Don't study art.'"

I would add a caveat to that rule. Gavin's version: "Don't study art unless you really mean it." Unless you're going to run MOMA, or be featured in it, don't bother. Make art; by all means keep painting or sculpting or, heaven forbid, finding objects, but get a degree in accounting.

Tim said...

Or rather: "If you pursue art, the chances are good that your life will suck like Frida Kahlo's, not be fabulous like Carrie Bradshaw's."

Hence: "Don't study art unless you really mean it."

Nota bene: Here "writing," even for a newspaper, counts as "art."