Friday, August 13, 2010

Why Is Eat, Pray, Love So Popular?

We have already discussed the imperialistic and racist dimensions of Eat, Pray, Love. Today, a movie based on this book is coming out and it is predicted to be a huge success. So why is there such a huge (mostly female) following the book and movie about what one reviewer calls a "pampered princess on constant display" with a "petulant, overblown ego"?

Female life choices are still pretty limited. Marriage and babies are touted as an only acceptable path for women from the TV and the movie screens, newspaper and magazine pages. Even within this limited model there are further limitations: planning the wedding the right way, giving birth the right way, breast-feeding the right way, bonding with the baby the right way, even holding the baby the right way. Female weight, appearance, mode of behavior, drinking habits, the volume of women's voices, etc. are endlessly policed. We are routinely stopped in the street by complete strangers and exhorted to smile, lose weight, quit smoking, and (as happened to me the other day) stop reading.

It is no surprise that women are sick and tired of this restrictive model. They gulp down rubbish like Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia because it offers a celebration of an escape from the obligatory marriage and motherhood, from the ubiquitous and unattainable standards of female thinness, from the condemnation of women who put their own pleasure before the that of men and children.

What saddens me is that this female discontent is not being channelled in the direction of political activism. Feminism does not have much to offer to these women since "choice feminists" have made the movement completely toothless. "Choice feminism" proposes that the greatest freedom women can desire is the freedom to be obedient little consumers. It is terrified of questioning any aspect of the gender status quo. The two major ruling parties in the US (which are mirrored by regional equivalents petty much everywhere in the West), have no use for women. Hatred of women is part of the Republican agenda. As for the Democrats, the first thing that Obama did when he came to power was to sell out women. Politically, such topics as parental leave, accessible and affordable daycare, equal pay, etc.  are dead. If politicians talk about women at all, it is to patronize us and condescend to us. Women are needed to come to the polls, vote, and shut the hell up afterwards. Which is what women do because, as usual, the eternal female role is to do what men want them to.

Until there is a legitimate political force interested in channeling female discontent into activism, women will have no alternative but to escape into idiotic fantasies like the one offered by Eat, Pray, Love.

20 comments:

FlowersNCuffs said...
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Miss S said...

I think the problem with the using the 'choice' rhetroric in choice feminism is the fact that choices aren't made in a vaccuum, independent of society and culture. All choices are constrained. So I agree with that point. One the other hand, marriage and motherhood are not seen as acceptable roles for all women, not yet. Just thought I would point that out.

Alan said...

Just in terms of false advertising, your hyperlink "the first thing that Obama did when he came into office is to sell out women" does not even pass the truthiness test. It links to a blog post from June 2010, about abortion and the insurance pools.

Furthermore, this is a highly ironic claim given that Obama's first major bill signing, after only nine days in office, was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

I sympathise with Robert Gibbs: it's sickening to see unappreciative left wingers whine that Obama is no diffent from Bush. Get a clue!

Clarissa said...

"One the other hand, marriage and motherhood are not seen as acceptable roles for all women, not yet."

-You are absolutely right, Miss S. I should have added that these are the roles that are being imposed on blonde, blue-eyed, affluent people like Gilbert, the author of the book. WOCs and indigent women - not so much.

Thanks for pointing this out.

theczech said...

I love your critique of consumer feminism!

I think it goes hand-in-hand with the brand of feminism that posits anything that makes women more equal to men must be a good thing. What about those instances when men's actions are reprehensible? What good is there in being equally oppressive, for instance?

Clarissa said...

Alan: I'm not into hero-worship. Obama is human and he needs to be criticized. To me, it is incontrovertible that his healthcare bill started with selling out women. I'm not going to avoid mentioning that for fear of antagonizing some starry-eyed fans.

Alan said...

Clarissa, no one asked you to avoid mentioning anything, or to get involved in "hero worship". A little demonstration of ability to perceive things in other than a binary manner would be nice, however. The impression you convey is that since you don't like some things Obama has done, he, and Democrats in general, "have no use for women". Considering that the first female Speaker of the House is a Democratic woman (an achievement that has frankly received too little attention), that three of the four Democratically appointed members of the Supreme Court (including both Obama's appointees) are women, while all five Republican appointees are men, your statement is absurd. I could mention Hillary Clinton's millions of primary votes (most of which came from Democratic men) as well.

And your hyperlinked statement was just grammatically (or historically) inaccurate. How do you write "the first thing Obama did when he came into office" and then link to a story about something he did well into his second YEAR of office?!? And did you really forget all about the Lily Ledbetter Act when you wrote that, and in the next sentence, when you wrote that "Politically such topics as...equal pay are dead"? Good grief.

Clarissa said...

Not only did I not forget about the Lily Ledbetter Act, I blogged about it (http://clarissasbox.blogspot.com/2009/04/obamas-news-conference.html). I had high hopes for Obama when he first came to office. But the negotiations over the healthcare act showed that women's interests are the first thing that is sacrificed. I'm angry about it. Many other people are, too.

Having a token female here and there doesn't mean that sexism is dead. Just like having a black president doesn't mean that racism is dead. I'm sure you don't mean it, but you are being very sexist yourself when you suggest that having a woman in a responsible position should be enough to satisfy female concerns about chauvinism and oppression. It's very similar to a Republican telling indigent people that the society is equal because there is somebody who started poor but became a millionaire. I'm happy that white women from affluent backgrounds were propelled to power by their rich and famous husbands. Still, their success doesn't make me less angry about the limited access to abortion, unfair pay, absence of parental leave and absence of legitimate access to daycare for less fortunate and privileged women.

"The first thing he did" in this post was a figure of speech. The helthcare legislation was admittedly the first major thing that Obama did in office.

Alan said...

Oh, Christ (and I say that as an atheist)...a "figure of speech"?!? Lame. Yeah, sure, that can be a figure of speech if it was somewhere in, say, the first couple months he was in office. To use it to refer to something from a year and a half later is, as Rahmbo so aptly put it, "fucking retarded". So is saying that ObamaCare was "the first major thing that Obama did in office"...pffft.

You really do have a problem with all-or-nothing views of the world, though, which sheds a good deal of light on why you are so disappointed.

It also leads you to fallacious strawperson arguments. I never said or even implied that sexism or racism are dead. I only disputed your claim that Democrats "have no use for women" (you see, unlike you, I think that precision in language is important).

You pooh-pooh the elevation by Democrats of a woman to Speaker, and the nomination of three women (of four Democratic appointments) to the Supreme Court as though they mean absolutely nothing. Does that mean that if Democrats had never put women in those positions of power, you wouldn't call them out on it? After all, it's meaningless when they do, so how would it not be equally meaningless if they hadn't?

All ethical considerations aside, you also don't seem to understand that if you always keep your Outrage-o-meter (TM) cranked up to eleven, you'll have no impact on policy because you'll be tuned out. Those in power will just rightly assume that if they try to appease you, you'll find some other excuse to excoriate them five minutes later.

You are, in short, a purity troll.

Anonymous said...

"You are, in short, a purity troll."

It's her own blog, man. Saying what you think on your own blog isn't trolling. Just for precision sake.

Ilana said...

Alan: what do you mean when you say "Democrats had never put women in those positions of power"? Aren't many Democrats women? You seems to say that the two are completely separate.
Are women objects that need to be "put" places? Didn't Hillary and Nancy Pelosi "put" themselves into power through hard work, campaigning, etc.?

theczech said...

Whoa, that was a heckuva mansplain, Alan.

Way to tell a woman that she needs to be less sensitive about women's issues because a few privileged white women are in positions of power. Why isn't Clarissa more grateful to you for your kind explanation of your personal views on reality?

Perhaps this resource would be helpful: 12 Helpful Suggestions for Men Regarding Conduct in Feminist Spaces

Alan said...

Ilana, I think you're spinning my words into a pretzel just because you want to defend Clarissa or whatever. Clarissa's initial statement put women separate from Democrats: "Democrats have no use for women". Why not ask her the same thing?

And how would you have phrased the statement I made? I can't even think of a concise, grammatically correct way to do it differently, but I'm open to suggestions.

Czech: No, not very helpful; but thanks all the same.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Alan 100%! Some people never have enough. They are never content. No matter how much is done for them, they find things to pick on and nag nag nag. Women in this country have it better than ANYWEHERE ELSE ON EARTH. And it's still not enough.

You hate it so much here, go to Iran where they'll make you wear a blanket an we'll see what you say then. Bet then the President of this country will not seem that opressive.

Alan said...

Let me be clear that though Anonymous may claim to agree with me 100% (which I doubt), this is not reciprocal and I wish to dissociate myself from his/her comment, if you please.

There is plenty of change that is still needed in this country, and we need activists who agitate for that change. I'm not even saying that Obama and the Democrats are doing enough, fast enough. I just want to see some nuance in the way they are judged.

Clarissa said...

Don't mind the troll, Alan. Nobody is duped by its silly screechings

Alan said...

Cool, Clarissa. The temperate nature of your comment makes me feel I may have misjudged you. I just wish though that you would give Democrats a little more credit.

Clarissa said...

If I find out that I'm wrong about this, I will be happy beyond what words can express. And I'm sure we share the same hope that the Dems don't lose too badly at the polls in November.

Alan said...

We do indeed! And I actually think they will do better than a lot of people expect (they are unpopular, but Congressional Republicans are much more unpopular, more unpopular than any time in decades).

And as Ilana said, Democrats are women, not something separate from women.

Anonymous said...

"Women in this country have it better than ANYWEHERE ELSE ON EARTH."

Whoever wrote this, has probably not even been to many places except his / her own small trailer. I find it ironic that those who proclaim that wherever they are is the best place on earth, are usually the least travelled, the least educated and the smallest minded individuals