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Tag: musings

The Problem With Blue

by fyarlgiles

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The problem with blue

is that it

 plumps up my lips with

the fatty fluff

of

petulance

until I am a beautiful beast—

-coddled-

– admired-

————-and loving it so

“I am Woman. Hear me Whine”  by Angie Hoover-Hillhouse

Gold & Pearls by Jenny Liz Rome

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Twist me Tender

by fyarlgiles

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-knees

and necks  this way

and that–

I hate to see that

bluish bend.

Beneath the floors

like dying

rats,

The folded backs

of melting men –

Cowardice by Angie Hoover-Hillhouse

Artwork by Franz Flackenhaus

Your Drowning is Contagious

by fyarlgiles

The heavy stone tied to my ankle

is you

because you are smooth,

asleep,  and

sinking downward with all those lovers still attached.

—–At the very bottom,

My eyes are both closed and open

because who can tell the difference down here?

I cannot breath

and

 I know  that waiting is all there is

anymore.

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I’ll let it happen

like you do–

never stopping to resist

We’re together

you’re alone

dying any time is fine

by Angie Hoover-Hillhouse

Raw

by fyarlgiles

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I feel

emerging from my softened heart

the rage of that diamond-blooded girl.

She boils in my body

like she did then–

sharper than glass

and

drenched in sacrilege –

 ready

to draw your blood.

“Platinum” by Angie Hoover Hillhouse

I will Protect You

by fyarlgiles

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My gaze–

brown and hard–

poses on

your

tiny

 back,

piercing holes

into those

that you

do not

wish

to face.

“Safe” by Angie Hoover-Hillhouse

Artwork: Immunity by Filmout

Repost: Sex and Dystopia

by fyarlgiles

An excellent article on self-objectification in the post-modern world

through the lens of Sex and the City.

taken from one of my favorite online magazines: The Hairpin

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Television critic Emily Nussbaum has an outstanding piece on Sex and the City—and how it lost its “good name”—in this week’s New Yorker. When people tell the story of quality television, Nussbaum argues, they talk about The Sopranos and the raft of other HBO shows that followed. They might acknowledge Sex and the City, but their scorn is palpable: “It might as well have been a tourism campaign for a post-Rudolph Giuliani, de-ethnicized Gotham awash in money,” writes Brett Martin, author of Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’ to ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Breaking Bad.’  

But Sex and the City was doing many of the same things, and sometimes doing them even better, than The Sopranos. As Nussbaum points out,

“Sex and the City,” too, was once one of HBO’s flagship shows. It was the peer of “The Sopranos,” albeit in a different tone and in a different milieu, deconstructing a different genre. Mob shows, cop shows, cowboy shows—those are formulas with gravitas. “Sex and the City,” in contrast, was pigeonholed as a sitcom. In fact, it was a bold riff on the romantic comedy: the show wrestled with the limits of that pink-tinted genre for almost its entire run. In the end, it gave in. Yet until that last-minute stumble it was sharp, iconoclastic television. High-feminine instead of fetishistically masculine, glittery rather than gritty, and daring in its conception of character, “Sex and the City” was a brilliant and, in certain ways, radical show. It also originated the unacknowledged first female anti-hero on television: ladies and gentlemen, Carrie Bradshaw.

The reasons for reading (and liking) this piece are manifold: I like that Nussbaum explicitly calls out the revisionist history that elides the presence of shows geared towards women and other “feminized” objects. I like that she reminds us of how nuanced the characters and their plotlines actually were. I like how she emphasizes how much friendship mattered to these women, and I reallylike that she told me on Twitter that she wanted to call the sex interludes “Chauceurian fabliaux, down to the farting.”

But I also have some problems with a secondary claim of the article, namely, that these characters were feminists:

Most unusually, the characters themselves were symbolic. As I’ve written elsewhere—and argued, often drunkenly, at cocktail parties—the four friends operated as near-allegorical figures, pegged to contemporary debates about women’s lives, mapped along three overlapping continuums. The first was emotional: Carrie and Charlotte were romantics; Miranda and Samantha were cynics. The second was ideological: Miranda and Carrie were second-wave feminists, who believed in egalitarianism; Charlotte and Samantha were third-wave feminists, focussed on exploiting the power of femininity, from opposing angles.

These claims are ostensibly correct: Miranda and Carrie were very much invested in egalitarianism. They were bread-winners; they didn’t expect others, and men in particular, to provide for them. I’ve often heard guy friends refer to Miranda as a “ball-buster,” which is another way of saying that she acts like a man. Charlotte and Samantha were also focused on exploiting femininity, whether in the form of traditional demureness or sex-positive self-objectification.

But I don’t really know if any of these women—with the pointed exception of Miranda—were actually feminists at all. I don’t think that they were pre-feminists (even though Charlotte could, at times, have exchanged places with an obedient Henry James character). They reaped the benefits of second-wave feminism (reproductive rights, sexual freedoms, access to workplace), but, given their sexual and financial freedoms, who needs the actual politics and rhetoric and discomfort of feminism? They weren’t emblematic of second or third wave feminism, but of postfeminism—the belief that feminism, as a movement and a real politik, is no longer necessary.

Under postfeminism, freedom to choose becomes freedom to consume: which shoe (Jimmy Choo), which drink (Cosmopolitan), and which meal (brunch) defines me as a person? It also marked the return of many of the things for which first and second wave feminism fought so ardently to leave behind: staying at home and funneling your energy into “putting a ring on it.”

But it’s not like postfeminism was an identity marker—no one goes around saying “I’m a postfeminist,” and Carrie certainly didn’t, either. It’s a cultural mode, like “post-9/11” or even, to some extent, postmodernism. When I teach postfeminism, I point to Pretty Woman and the students kinda get it; then I point to Sex and the City and they really get it.

Which is part of why Sex and the City has curdled in my memory. Like many of you, I’m guessing, I had a period of obsession when it initially aired; I remember renting the DVDs (you could get the entire season at once) and ordering Cosmopolitans and consuming the series wholly uncritically. Today, Sex and the City stands in for the time in my past when, for better and for worse, I played with behaviors and tastes that grad student me would call “problematic.” I don’t regret them, per se, but I do think it’s important to be able to look back and see what they suggested in terms of norm, whether in terms of dealing with vaguely and not-so-vaguely misogynist men or the need to buy lots of shit.

But as I read the article again, and discussed it with Nussbaum, I realized I was being unfair. When milk curdles, you don’t take a deep drink and really taste it; you spit it out. And that’s what I’ve done with Sex and the City, neglecting the ways in which the narrative never straightforwardly endorses Carrie’s consumption (at least in the beginning, she’s always haplessly broke) or romance (the Big storyline up until the final season, wow), and uses the supporting characters to explore all manner of crucial, generally ignored women’s issues with genuine grace and humor.

So I was being unfair, but it wasn’t entirely my fault. As Nussbaum points out, the fairytale ending of the series goes a long way towards unraveling the otherwise progressive storylines. But you know what else makes me think bad thoughts? The movies. The first one, sure, but the second one is an abomination. I realize it’s unjust to blame the original for the sins of the offspring—Star Wars, I’m so sorry for your loss—but with the movies, we had the same characters, the same actors, and the same plotlines, only now they were hackneyed, reductive, and completely evacuated of nuance. The postfeminism of the series was complicated; in the movies, there’s nothing complicated about it. SATC2, especially, is racist and xenophobic and, ironically, somewhat woman-hating. You don’t look at these women and see someone you want to emulate; you look at them and understand why patriarchy endures.

Sex in the City the series is arguably less white than Girls, but it treats race much in the way that it treats gender politics: as something we’ve moved beyond. When the series aired, no one (that I read) was making arguments about how the show’s title, coupled with the casting, suggests that sex in the city is the unique provenance of white upper class women. It wasn’t because the show was somehow more sophisticated or meaningful in its handling of race—it’s that those weren’t the conversations critics were having, at least not broadly, at the time. When critics talked about Sex and the City, they talked about sex, the new HBO and fashion. (Also remember: this was pre-blogosphere, where the critiques of Girls and other shows largely originated). But maybe we can restart that conversation now, and think about the ways in which SATC— and its often unspoken racial politics—shares DNA not only with Girls, but also Grey’s AnatomyVampire DiariesTrue Blood, and countless other shows.

Here’s what I want to do: revisit Sex and the City and think about the ways that it might actually function not as an endorsement of postfeminism, but as an early artifact of postfeminist (and “postracial”) dystopia. I’ve used this term to describe GirlsBachelorette, and Revenge: these are all texts that represent the “fruits,” for lack of a better word, of postfeminist culture. It’s a world filled with really bad sex, catty infighting, and generalized dissatisfaction with what you thought you wanted.

Girls never celebrates this life; it makes it seem murky, scary, and sad. Sex and the City did celebrate this life, but it was never as straightforward as I like to remember. Carrie was, indeed, an anti-hero, and a large part of that might have been due to the difficulty of reconciling feminist tendencies (she, too, could be a ball-buster) with the societal imperatives of postfeminism. Sex and the City may not be dystopic in the manner of Girls, but it’s also not exactly utopian. Pretty Woman it most definitively is not.

So maybe I’m ready to rethink. Are you?

Anne Helen Petersen is a Doctor of Celebrity Gossip. No, really. You can find evidence (and other writings) here. Her book, Scandals of Classic Hollywood, is forthcoming from Plume/Penguin in 2014.

Never have I ever

by fyarlgiles

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At 12 I didn’t have that

homoerotic

best friendship that I’ve

seen in movies–

I never eased my sweaty

palm into yours

and we never

shared powdery-pink

kisses during sleepovers

just for practice.

I always slept on my side

clinging to a small square of

purple sheet

instead of with you

forehead

to forehead

in a sea of plush blankets

You were always different.

Sometimes Lisa

sometimes Brie

Jenny, Mia, Amy

and those faces in between.

and I always felt alone with you

because we never touched.

–all of you so far away

and me too

smart to reach.

But

I choose to have

your girlish warmth–

—lipstick—

— secrets—

youth

A mirage of adolescent love

to make myself

feel

whole

by Angie Hoover-Hillhouse

The Day After Samantha

by fyarlgiles

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the sting of her

flickers

in my sleepy

heart

for days.

— eyelashes

batting slowly

— golden collarbones

rising

and resting—–

 like

bright,

 blinking

blurs of

what Life

————--should be

– ” The Day After Samantha” by Angie Hoover-Hillhouse

Artwork: Native Elephant by Cassidy Rae Limbach

The Women

by fyarlgiles

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The women

are made of

heaven’s ruby lips

and honey-colored stares–

——–They are

those

chills

that prickle covered arms

 in the brisk night air-

and

——— those

mysterious

flirtations

that  warm dead fingers

with the electricity

of

promise.

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but deep

in the bones of their pretty feet

—–deep

in the pits

of their brown bellies

is a passion sickened

and pale.

-Too old and beaten

to come

to life

for me.

-Angie Hoover -Hillhouse

With the Princess

by fyarlgiles

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after the war

I buried my eyes

-in the stones

-in the sky

where her blue body lies

They draped her in petals

as white as the moon

to soften the sins

that

leak–

—from her wounds

—-

her secrets

 smell pinkish

like strawberry wine

but

I see

the foul rot

that will

cloak her

in time

With the Princess by Angie Hoover-Hillhouse