Once again, this is going to be an odd one. The first part is about a problem (with women) that some people (including some women) see but which I don’t think really exists. The second is about a problem (for women) which I fear is very, very, very real…and quite deadly.
So, without further ado…
First, the problem that isn’t.
I had an odd thought the other day about, of all things, a female movie star of the 1960s and 1970s, and sexism, racism, classism, prostitutes, college professors…and, last but certainly not least, my own faults.
Which are, alas, all too real and all too numerous.
Here’s the story. I was looking up a movie that I had seen in my lost youth—I’ll spare you which one. Suffice to say it was a fluffy but funny little spy spoof. In it, the main female character was played by a certain actress. Let’s call her “Carol.” Not her name. But it’ll do for the moment.
Call her Carol
Anyway, I looked up Carol. Her entry on IMDB noted that she had had several film roles, mostly in comedies, all in Europe, even though she was an American.
At another website, this one devoted to the academic study of popular culture, I found a bit more of her biography. The author of the biography (who I will also not identify) was not particularly enamored of the actress. She …the author of the biography…noted with a sniff that Carol had dated “a number of wealthy men” when she was younger and working as “an exotic dancer.”
You see the subtext, of course. The implication is that she was some sort of prostitute. Maybe not a call girl, maybe what the French used to call a “grande horizontale,” that is, a very high class courtesan. But, still…
I finished the article and went my way, not particularly thinking one thing or another about the biography. Then, a few days later, something struck me. To wit, there was no evidence that Carol took money from the men she dated. And even if she had accepted gifts from them, well, so what? Or rather, since it was obviously consensual, what business was it of ours?
What business is it of ours?
Of course, that brought up the old Feminist rejoinder of “you wouldn’t say that if she were a man.” And it’s true. If “Carol” had been Carl, nobody would have raised an eyebrow if he’d been seen in the company of a rich woman or two. Maybe there’d have been a few whispers, but “gigolo” is a hard word to pronounce, and a harder condition to prove.
But I think this situation is even more complicated than that. For the moment, let’s keep Carol a woman, but this time make her…say…a college professor, rather than an entertainer. Or an aspiring journalist. Or, for that matter, someone who wrote learned articles on blogs about popular culture.
If that were the case…I submit that absolutely no one would have sneered at Carol, or hinted that she was … ahem…a scarlet women. They would have said simply that as a young woman, she dated a number of noted men, including (and this is true of the real Carol) a well-known French language author and members of the financial, political, and academic establishments of her day. She might well have been seen as an exemplar, a young and ambitious woman who knew what she wanted and moved confidently among the great and near great of the world.
Among the great and the near great...
My point? I’m not sure I’ve really got one. But, if I do, I suppose it is that we have too many reasons to denigrate our fellow human beings. And sometimes those come from some surprising places. And thus gender, and race, and class…and even merely assumptions of what is and is not a proper profession can make us scorn those who have in fact done us no harm.
Further, and worse, it is sometimes those who are first to perceive and condemn bias in others, who then and most insidiously practice it themselves. Further still, and worse still, it may be…that such people can be seen within the mirror.
Including, alas, my own.
Now, second, the problem which genuinely exists…
While researching this piece, and the spy spoof I’d seen all those years ago, I discovered lots of websites and blogs by film fans. There are people out there who are fascinated by vintage cult films dating from the 1960s and early 1970s. Thus, you can find well-written essays on everything from Beach Party movies to schlock horror.
And, of course, many such sites contain the biographies of the casts of those films, including the women …the actresses…who starred in the roles of ingenue, love interest, scream queen, etc.
Now, some of these women went on to bigger and better things, going on to become stars in mainstream cinema. Others had decent runs on the screen and then exited the profession for happy marriages or (with surprising frequency) stellar careers in real estate.
But others…far more than you might think…did not. Far too many of the women who have sought careers evoking the male gaze, have come to truly tragic ends — suicides, accidental overdoses, murdered by husbands or lovers, disfigured by botched plastic surgery in desperate attempts to retain their looks, dying in mysterious circumstances, or just simply disappearing from the face of the earth.
Far too many
In short, if you want something to worry about, then here’s something worth the effort. And it is something for both women and men to worry about. Particularly men. Like me.
For we, as men, have a special responsibility. Our sexuality is not by itself evil, in spite of what some people would have us believe. It is, or can be, innocent.
But death…and murder and torture and slavery and rape…
Those are evil.
And it is our duty to make certain that those horrors are now, and forever, driven …like demons…from both our hearts…
…and the face of this all too vulnerable planet.
Special note: I am not certain, but I may go back to doing just one Xcargo column a week. I enjoy writing them, but I have found recently that I also want to get back to doing video and audio. So, to give myself a little more time for those other things, I might want to cut back here a little bit.
So, maybe I’ll post on Saturdays? What do you think? Give me your wise words and witty remarks.
Until next time…
Onward and upward.