In this month’s Harper’s Bazaar, Naomi Wolf wrote an essay about how Angelina Jolie “brings together almost every aspect of female empowerment and liberation.” Angelina Jolie was crowned Ultimate Feminist upon winning some kind of Harpers survey which “inquired which Hollywood actress has it all.” Sady of Tiger Beatdown and I wonder how we, too, may win some kind of survey that may magically endow us with every aspect of female empowerment and liberation.
What sample size must participate in this survey? Does Harpers have to create it, or can we whip up our own women-liberating survey ourselves? Might we have subjugated ourselves for all eternity by ignoring that 866 call to our cell phones last night? Find out, after the jump:
SADY: so, yes: angelina jolie represents us all! or, the best in all of us! she is the eternal spirit of woman! or something.
AMANDA: she also represents how sexy feminism can be. the worst thing about this whole thing is how it seems to be pretty much accidental how angie rose to become this Idea of Woman. you, too, can be the ideal woman: effortlessly!
SADY: yet, i mean: somehow, in spite of the article’s many points about how angelina exemplifies the ideal woman (did you know that even STRAIGHT women, if pressed, would sleep with her? this is in no way a generic “well, i guess people like her” answer) i doubt everyone idealizes her in the way the article suggests. SHE WON A SURVEY. people were like, “who’s a celebrity you like THE MOST, and the answer was “angelina.” she really only occupies this exalted place within this specific essay.
AMANDA: i know. the stars of sexiness and Brad Pitt and bisexual fantasies and feminism aligned at this particular moment. (because they had to, for this essay). and so, anything Angelina does is empowering. i don’t particularly see what’s feminist or anti-feminist about, say, sleeping with a man who is married. but maybe if we squint …
SADY: right. or blood necklaces, or kissing your brother. feminism: now with more billy bob thornton action! is not a headline i expect to see on the cover of ms. any time soon. well, not unless i write that essay. and then cut and paste that headline on to the cover of ms. in a delusional frenzy.
SADY: but, really: the article just seems to be stretching. look, she’s sexy! and, a mom! and, she has a cute boyfriend! like, how is this not true of so many other celebrity women?
AMANDA: i do think that crowning anyone as the archetype of “bringing together almost every aspect of female empowerment and liberation” is necessarily dumb.
SADY: right? like, the article actually says at some point, “she is like princess diana, but better than princess diana, because she is not dead, which really put a damper on our desire to identify with princess diana.” PARAPHRASING.
AMANDA: personally, i like the idea that somewhere deep down, Mother Teresa was personally dismayed that people could see her as good, but not sexy. “why am i so GOOD?” “i will never be desired!”
SADY: “ARRRRRRRRGH, boys don’t like me. maybe if i didn’t spend all this time with lepers!”
AMANDA: it’s also telling that the story is a write-around, as all stories about celebrities are, because we really have no fucking idea what her life is actually like or whether we would really want it. or want to sleep with it. whatever it is that we want from her life.
SADY: right? and i am sure that, in some places, her life is pretty mundane. the whole glamour and myth-making process of celebrity is one thing, but: you know, she’s just a lady. i have it on good authority that angelina jolie both eats food for nutritional reasons and excretes waste products known as “poop!” i heard that angelina jolie frequently douses herself with water and soap for that special “clean” feeling!
AMANDA: finally, a woman who poops that women want to be like! we’ve been waiting for this
SADY: yet, despite our common habits of pooping and showering (i hear she also “sleeps” to refresh herself!) i really doubt that many of us will EVER have lives that resemble hers. like. if you have to win an oscar and sleep with brad pitt and adopt and/or birth all the underprivileged children in the world to bring together all facets of women’s liberation, i really should just give up now.
AMANDA: yeah, and i think by the end we get to this crazy perversion of her original point. which is that, you know, women should be able to have sex lives AND be respected, and other such double-standard-breakers. but angie just keeps piling on the ANDs to the point of absurdity. like, now we should be able to have sex lives AND be respected AND be amateur pilots before, we were just slutty pilots.
SADY: AND star in sky captain and the world of tomorrow! don’t forget! in the world of tomorrow, everyone will respect you for your slutty piloting skills! it’s kind of nuts. i, at this point, have been devoted to The Feminism for so long, and i continually think about (a) whether my life is feminist enough or (b) whether my life is STEREOTYPICALLY feminist. like, ideally i should be gorgeous and universally loved but especially be loved by boys but also resist each and every form of oppression that i encounter in my day-to-day life, SUCCESSFULLY.
AMANDA: see, but angelina can effortlessly be feminist AND not too feminist, all at the same time, without being forced to choose between feminism and not-too-feminism
5:15 PM those lips, etc. i dont’ know. i want to read profiles like this about EVERY celebrity
SADY: because (SPOILER) angelina, as she exists in this essay, is your imaginary friend. she is made up. i like the part where we go into Imaginary Angelina’s brain and learn what she is thinking: “She insists on claiming every role on an operatic scale, making the symbolism as transgressive as possible — and saying, implicitly, “See? It can be done.””
whereas maybe she was just thinking, “WOO, what a cute baby, i’m gonna adopt it. also, get another tattoo. unicorns are the best.” my Imaginary Angelina/Perfect Woman Archetype thinks a lot about unicorns. it’s weird.
AMANDA: whatever, our Perfect Women can DO that now. finally.
SADY: exactly. but, you know. if another woman were as popular as angelina jolie – and maybe another woman will be, soon – we’d be writing the same essay about her, i think. like, in five years it might be lady gaga and we’d be writing about how real female self-determination means you can dress like natalie portman in the Star Wars movies, but if that character really liked to get naked. the Perfect Woman thing is so arbitrary and weird that you could basically write your own essay about “[x] is the perfect woman” and get the same results.
AMANDA: i like this new outlet for feminist writers though. get hired by mainstream publication. argue why arbitrary [whatever] is feminist. i could get used to that
SADY: oh, that sounds perfect to me. who wants to hire me to write about the feminism of various artisanal bourbons? “this bourbon, which i drank A LOT OF, filled me with the feelings of liberation and pukiness that are essential to feminism.” “this is a bourbon that can do it all.” “and so can YOU, female reader.”
AMANDA: You let me know when the Tiger Beatdown Feminist Bourbon Tour starts and I’ll be the first in line.