Major kudos to Arion Berger for her Demimonde piece titled “I Know You, You’re Nobody” (7/31), in which she responds to this summer’s pseudo-commentary on Ally McBeal and the state of feminism today, a trend in various press since Time magazine appeared on shelves in June asking the silly yet apparently provocative question “Is Feminism Dead?” Berger’s article was both gritty and graceful, short and sweet, with an appropriate air of dismissal for the uninformed, superficial way in which the potentially complex subject of modern women’s issues has been handled of late.
Ginia Bellafante’s article in Time was so groundless that it barely seemed worth responding to at all, until I came across an article in the New Yorker (8/3) titled “The Marriage Mystique,” a review of the popular British novel Bridget Jones’s Diary, in which contributor Daphne Merkin, a self-professed Ally McBeal lover, adds a dangerous edge to this potluck of weak commentary on post-feminism when she proclaims, “‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ is the sort of cultural artifact that is recognizably larger than itself.” Exqueeze me? If Bridget Jones (or Ally McBeal, for that matter) is a “cultural artifact” of our time, then I shudder to think what the millennium will bring. Sure, Bridget and Ally can make us laugh about our quirky private moments and innermost thoughts within the context of e-mail and cell-phone mania, and there’s nothing wrong with that; but anyone who chooses to look beyond summer best-seller lists and Fox TV for insight into issues facing women today knows better than to herald these characters as anything other than mildly entertaining fiction. Berger’s analysis is right on: “…Miss Jones is, like Miss McBeal, discussed in terms of her emotional nutrition value for female consumers. It’s as if the function of entertainment is different for women, who need to learn and profit from a series of role models, while men can enjoy and then discard books and television shows.”
Never mind that in one breath, writers like Bellafante and Merkin speak of “feminism” and “women” as if we are all white, middle- to upper-middle-class 9-to-6ers, sipping Starbucks coffee and battling office politics in heels and hose. Never mind that last time my friends and I checked, the feminists we know were out fighting for anti-poverty legislation, gun control, environmental protection, and women’s reproductive health. Never mind that I want to drop-kick that ugly-ass computerized man in diapers that dances around McBeal’s living room. Berger gets right to the point: “Most of the information Americans get about feminism comes to us by way of media’s most flagrant pin-ups…Asking the public to respond to these exceptions and anomalies is a diversion technique picked up from politics, where contention over subjects like flag-burning is turned into national conflagration so we won’t have the mental space to think about the fact that some Republicans are trying to do away with public education. Distract the people with a shiny thingooh, look it’s Ally McBeal!and we’ll gamely start batting at it, forgetting just how many cents on the male dollar women are making.”
Sigh of relief. Finally someone out there who’s writing about it actually gets it, too.
via the Internet