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a blog by Ann Althouse

"The question at the trial was: What did Weinstein do? But its subtext is an argument about female ambition: What should a woman want?"

Writes Dana Goodyear in "Harvey Weinstein, the Monster of #MeToo/If Weinstein is acquitted in L.A., it will be tempting to conclude that #MeToo is over. But, even if he is convicted, some may reach the same conclusion" (The New Yorker).

The jury has been deliberating for 3 days so far. Today is Day 4, so the prospect of acquittal is real.

Many of Weinstein’s accusers are women who sought access to an industry over which Weinstein held sway, and who continued to strive for it in spite of his alleged abuse. They still wanted the job, the chance....

Two of the witnesses... like many other Weinstein accusers, kept in touch with him afterward...

When the defense told [one witness] that no one had forced her to go to Weinstein’s hotel room on a subsequent occasion, when she had set up a business meeting between Weinstein and a male friend of hers, she parried, “My ego forced me to.”...

[Natassia] Malthe, a frank and salty witness—Weinstein, she said, was a “fat fuck”—suggested that, having already been raped, she “wanted to make the best of this situation... He has you by the fucking throat, knowing that, if you don’t comply, that your career is down the drain, knowing that this thing you’ve worked on for months . . . and that’s not right.”...

If Malthe’s and other similar accounts are true, this is Weinstein at his most diabolical: violating women and then dangling phantom go-nowhere gigs to create an elaborate fiction of an exchange for some future defense, or perhaps to better defend his own conscience from misgivings and moral pangs....

Will a jury find that a woman’s desire to work undermines her account of being sexually violated in the process? Will it believe that these women, participating in a criminal case, are gleefully jumping on what [defense lawyer Alan Jackson] called the “2017 dogpile”? Arguing that Jane Doe No. 3 and Siebel Newsom both engaged in consensual relationships with Weinstein for their own benefit (“He benefitted, and she benefitted”),  Jackson said that after 2017 they were “desperate to relabel their relationships with Harvey Weinstein.”

Siebel Newsom, he said, “cannot square in her mind the idea that she’s a successful, well-educated, well-bred, refined woman who had consensual sex with Harvey Weinstein in exchange for opportunity and access.”

It was “transactional sex,” he said, and Siebel Newsom had buyer’s remorse. But, he said, “regret is far from rape. You don’t get to rewrite your own history, no matter who you’re married to.”

ADDED: Let's look at that question I put in the post title: "What should a woman want?"

Weinstein's lawyers weren't questioning women's ambition. They were acknowledging and crediting women's ambition. As I read those quotes from the defense's closing argument, they were characterizing the women as individuals with full agency, choosing to pay with sex to get what they wanted.

That is, there was consent. Obviously, that doesn't mean a business should be run like that. But in the trial, it is only proffered as a defense to the criminal charge of rape, not as a reason to think transactional sex is not a problem.

But it's easy to condemn rape, and very hard to get into the complex problem of transactional sex. But in the good old days of radical feminism, we did get into that problem. Once you are there, you will be critiquing all the relationships you want to feel warm and romantic about — including the marriage of Siebel and Gavin... and your own marriage. 

AND: What would a rule against transactional sex look like? The only permissible sex would be sex for sex — an equal exchange. Both (or all) parties want the sex precisely because they want the sex and nothing else. That's a high ideal. You might want to try to adhere to it as a matter of personal ethics, but I can't believe you'd want it as a legally enforceable standard of conduct. I'll bet you wouldn't even accept it socially as a basis for judging other people.

"[S]he arrived [in San Francisco] in the early 1970s and joined a feminist art collective. The group produced Wimmen’s Comix..."

"... one of the first feminist comics produced entirely by women, with topics that ranged from queer life to abortion to rape. The artist left the collective over disagreements about works that some found to be too unsparing (her alter ego character Bunch, for example, would sometimes pop pimples or masturbate or pick her butt). So in 1975, she founded a new women’s comic: Twisted Sisters. Together with her husband and collaborator Robert Crumb and their daughter Sophie, she moved to the south of France in 1990...."

From "Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Rebellious Cartoonist, Dead at 74" (NY Magazine).

This is from 2 years ago:

"It’s a list of something. The question is what."

That's all I have to say after my son John posts — on Facebook — a link to "'Jeanne Dielman' Tops Sight & Sound’s 2022 Poll of the Best Films of All Time."

The Sight & Sound poll results are much anticipated — every 10 years. I've been noticing this thing since the 1970s, so I'm familiar with what normally ends up at or near the top. Favorites come and go. But I've never seen the #1 position go to something I've never even heard of:

Directed by Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman and released in 1975, “Jeanne Dielman” is a three-hour, 20-minute film following the title character (Delphine Seyrig), a single mother and prostitute, as she carries out a monotonous daily routine that slowly breaks apart and collapses. Since its premiere, the film has been highly acclaimed as a landmark of feminist cinema.

What's going on here? And do I need to watch a 3-hour, 20-minute monotonous movie to have an opinion? A movie about a prostitute — but feminist. Keep watching, because she will break apart and collapse, and we're told it's feminist.

I've had my own feminist opinion about the overrepresentation of prostitutes in the movies, and I've had it for a long time — for many cycles of Sight & Sound polls. So I don't need these critics trying to make up for all their past decades of boosting the work of male film directors... if that's what's going on here.

Nancy Pelosi uses sexist analogy to describe her withdrawal from power: "I have no intention of being the mother-in-law in the kitchen saying, 'My son doesn’t like this thing this way.'"

That's quoted in "Pelosi Steps Aside, Signaling End to Historic Run as Top House Democrat/'For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect,' Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. She has led her party in the House for two decades" (NYT).

That was completely gratuitous — dragging in the stock character, the mother-in-law. We're supposed to know the stereotype and to loathe that sort of woman.

The NYT can't get halfway through the headline without bonking us over the head with Pelosi's womanhood. She was "historic," we're supposed to know, and it's for one reason, the reason we've been told over and over again. 

I guess that makes her the right kind of woman, the woman who achieves in the traditionally male sphere. And good for her. But she turns around and takes a shot at women who do continue in the traditional sphere, the mothers. You know mothers. They can't control themselves and insist on interfering in their adult children's life. 

Did Pelosi feel compelled to stereotype herself? As she sheds the leadership role and thinks about how she will behave in the future, did she naturally think of herself in stereotypical terms. Instead of comparing herself to other leaders who have continued in power but in a lesser role, she instinctively reverted to portraying herself as a traditional woman — a mother who has moved from authority figure in the nuclear family to a lesser onlooker as her son forms his own new family.

"The take of the 'feminist art historian' is that a painting of a paid model, 'a fat woman' who’s 'old' as she states, 'can only be grotesque' and is 'truly horrible.'"

"That doesn’t seem very feminist, does it? Does the self-identified feminist think Freud should only paint beautiful young models with perfect bodies instead of normal human beings? I’m so confused."

A comment on the NYT article "Lucian Freud, Stripped of Fame and Scandal/A major London exhibition asks viewers to put aside the details of the artist’s tumultuous life and concentrate on his paintings." 

The article quotes the feminist art historian Linda Nochlin, who called a painting "truly horrible." She said Freud tells us "in no uncertain terms what he thinks of women who are no longer 'girls' and have the temerity to take their clothes off in front of him," and in his "simple-minded taxonomy, an old woman, or a fat woman, can only be grotesque."

You'd think an art historian would be more aware of her own reaction and the danger of attributing it to the artist. If the feminist wants idealized images of women and rejects a raw confrontation with real, naked flesh, she should offer insight into why she feels that way.

It's absurd to say the raw images "can only be grotesque" because a viewer has the power to find beauty in an image that seems, at first, grotesque. The "only" limitation is in the eye of the beholder.

"Cotton Mather called them 'The Hidden Ones.' They never preached or sat in a deacon’s bench. Nor did they vote or attend Harvard."

"Neither, because they were virtuous women, did they question God or the magistrates. They prayed secretly, read the Bible through at least once a year, and went to hear the minister preach even when it snowed. Hoping for an eternal crown, they never asked to be remembered on earth. And they haven’t been. Well-behaved women seldom make history; against Antinomians and witches, these pious matrons have had little chance at all."

That's from "Vertuous Women Found: New England Ministerial Literature, 1668-1735," a 1976 article by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a professor of Early American history at Harvard. I'm reading that at Professor Buzzkill because I wanted to know the source of the line I put in boldface, which is a pretty common feminist slogan.

Some people think that quote originated with Marilyn Monroe (or one of many others), but no, it was Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

Anyway, the old saying popped into my head when I saw that title of a new NYT op-ed, "The Unruly Heirs of Sarah Palin" by Rosie Gray. Let's read:

This new generation’s pugnaciousness makes Ms. Palin’s “Going Rogue” days look subdued. Conservative moms from all over the country have turned local school board meetings into contentious showdowns over policy and curriculum, organized by groups like Moms for Liberty who say they are “on a mission to stoke the fires of liberty.” “We do NOT co-parent with the government,” reads the back of one of the T-shirts for sale in the moms’ online merch store.

Shades of Ms. Palin can be seen in Representatives Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, whose gun-toting photo-ops recall Ms. Palin’s rural, hunting-and-fishing image. But Kari Lake, the hard-right former news anchor running for governor in Arizona, is perhaps the paradigmatic New Mama Bear. One moment, she’s literally vacuuming a red carpet for Mr. Trump; the next, she’s calling her Democratic opponent a coward and the media the “right hand of the Devil.”...
[W]hile Ms. Palin lost control of her image to a skeptical, often condescending news media (remember the infamous Katie Couric interview in which the candidate couldn’t name any newspapers she read?), the steely, intense Ms. Lake has made a sport of antagonizing the reporters on her trail and excelled at turning the exchanges into content....

I was expecting the article to disparage "unruly" women and that the NYT, but that's not what happened. The old slogan — Well-behaved women seldom make history — makes just as much sense for conservative activists as it does for progressives.

There's a lot of "male gaze" in this documentary about the "male gaze."


I'm reading about that movie today in "‘Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power’ Review: Demystifying the Male Gaze/Directed by Nina Menkes, the film is a distressingly prescriptive documentary aimed at unpacking the patriarchal ways of seeing that have dominated the history of cinema" (NYT). 

Distressingly prescriptive?

A Bernard Herrmann-esque score... pulses conspiratorially throughout the documentary, giving the sense that Menkes’s narration is revealing secret and sinister facts about the way cinema caters to male fantasy. It uses examples from beloved and acclaimed films like “Apocalypse Now,” “Do the Right Thing” and “Phantom Thread,” and, toward the end, it presents the apparently rare films in which women do have agency, namely ones directed by Menkes.

"On the one hand we have the blandest pap imaginable — superhero movies and Adele — and on the other we have Netflix and its mindless death porn...."

"It feels, actually, as if we’re going backwards. The playful cheesecake Marilyn of the 1950s — a confected blonde bimbo that this film clearly despises — seems infinitely preferable to the Marilyn of 70 years later: a haggard, weeping cipher and shivering perma-victim who is obsessed with the contents of her womb. In an attempt to 'explain' Marilyn, the makers have simply created another pathetic object: a woman who spends the entire film either naked or in tears, or both.... She can barely touch a drink without getting wasted; barely get in a car without crashing it.... Is this where victim culture has led us.... Schoolgirls are told that they ought to be crippled by their periods. Female celebrities scramble to be defined by menopause, the horrors of pregnancy or, even better, miscarriage. On podcasts, in interviews and in articles otherwise intelligent, capable women moan about their lives collapsing, or being unable to cope with even the tiniest sliver of adversity: they are all like Marilyn on a date with DiMaggio at a perfectly nice restaurant: 'I’m afraid of some of the people here.' Marilyn had more power when she was a plain sex object, giggling on the cover of Playboy." 

Writes Camilla Long, in "Every generation has its own Marilyn. Our one gets drugged and raped. Thanks, Netflix" (London Times).

What is a blonde?

Here's something from 1963 in the NYT that I chanced into as I was looking for the review of the new Netflix film titled "Blonde":

What is a blonde? 

Who knew there were women's groups back then taking aim at such minor intrusions on female freedom? It seems more like something that would come up today.

"[S]he arrived [in San Francisco] in the early 1970s and joined a feminist art collective. The group produced Wimmen’s Comix...""Democratic strategist Kurt Bardella recommends that Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) turn to pornography ..."There's a lot of "male gaze" in this documentary about the "male gaze."What is a blonde?

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