Monday, September 24, 2007

Katha Pollitt on Women and Power

There were two thought-provoking quotes in Katha Pollitt's interview with Deborah Solomon in Sunday's New York Times:

Deborah Solomon: "Really? I think you’re underestimating the value of living in the Age of Britney Spears."
Katha Pollitt: "Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, poor Britney Spears — I feel sorry for all of them, because they are being made into these icons of female ruin. Everyone watches them collapsing in public ways that are tremendously humiliating."

DS: "Are you a Hillary supporter?"
Katha Pollitt: "In this country we have a real problem with women and power. If people don’t stop saying incredibly sexist things about Hillary Clinton, I may just have to vote for her."

Me (Laura): So, someone else who thinks people who have a problem with Hillary Clinton really have a problem with women wielding power. Which raises the question, why are college-educated women less fond of Hillary than less well-educated women, as a recent poll showed? It must be because women are each other's harshest critics, and there's that natural survival instinct shaping our behavior, that if another woman has power that means there's less for us to hold onto, an instinct that has left women in the work force without the "old boys' network" that men profit from.

Me, again: What Pollitt said about Britney and Lohan being "icons of female ruin" is also fascinating. I'm captivated by how there are certain female archetypes that keep coming up again and again in the media. I wrote about the Marie Antoinette archetype in the Chicago Tribune a few weeks ago (think Martha Stewart, Leona Helmsley, Barbara Amiel.) There's also this sexed-up, debauched archetype of the ruined woman, also a woman of wealth - Paris Hilton; Britney Spears; Lindsay Lohan - which keeps re-appearing. What does this say about our culture and our views of women? It's a reaction to women in power, the same kind of aversion to women in power that's operating in the case of Hillary Clinton, but a completely different archetype, a sexualized one.

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