It’s hard to be in the mood to make fun of Miss Utah — who, after all, was participating in a prettiness contest and who did what she was supposed to do in that regard, which is look pretty — when almost everyone who has done so already has done it so gleefully, because there isn’t much we love more than a dumb woman. (Especially a pretty one, because it’s reassuring, I think. “Well, at least I am smarter than her/Well, at least she isn’t threatening,” etc.) Her answer, if you can call it that, was funny, really. Or sad. But to watch the commentary is to be put in this weird spot where I don’t want to join in for what I guess are political reasons, and probably that’s part of the reason why feminists get called humorless — because it’s hard for me to understand what it’s like to live in that world, where one pilloried woman doesn’t remind you of sixteen others and you’re able to think of the person without the pattern. It’s the pattern that isn’t funny even if the person really is. It’s impossible to be objective.
And that’s come up a lot lately, and it’s among the other reasons I don’t care for the jokes about Miss Utah (it seems almost everyday now there’s something like this, forcing me into hiding off Twitter) — the idea that there’s an objective funny (and it’s what guys say) and an objective story worth making movies about (and it’s men’s) and an objective GOOD journalism, and it’s the kind in Esquire and GQ and not Marie Claire and Glamour. I don’t think anything is objective, except maybe, uh, gravity, but even that is debated, like by David Hume, even though I find that irritating because well, okay, we’ve all dropped enough things to know it’s going to keep happening by this point, if you ask me. That is my subjective opinion about David Hume.
There is a quote in that Jessica Grose story from Janet Reitman, who said, “I was never going to be a ‘chick,’ you know, doing ‘chick stories.’” And that’s taken out of context, and we’re assured she’s well aware of the way women’s experiences are ghettoized and discounted, but that sentence still makes me cringe. (That’s ME she’s talking about, in a way!) If even we won’t say our stories are as valuable as Buzz Bissinger writing about leather suits for fourteen thousand pages (and I think probably at least some of them are!), who will? I get it — on the one hand, women shouldn’t be relegated to writing about manicures if they do not want to write about manicures, and nobody should patronize us or assume ALL we care about are manicures. On the other hand, there is probably a lot to say about manicures, and a lot of people would read about manicures and have a nice time doing that, and there is a way to tell that story that’s smart and funny and interesting, too. At a certain point we have to ask WHY we think the topics we think of as fluff are fluff. (OK, a manicure story is not my best example. Or am I accommodating even now??)
The “stupid” girl movies and girl books and girl TV shows I’ve seen and read have meant so much more to me, personally, than any action movie about a bro hero or acclaimed pop psychology thinkpiece — things that feign depth while being, in the end, no less shallow than every “perfect for the beach! for girls in swimsuits!” book I’ve ever read, and probably more so — ever has. A lot of it is imperfect but I grab hold of it whenever it is there. And I hope soon there is more, MUCH more, so there’s room for some of it to be stupider than the rest. Because then we could say that out loud and feel fine — not so protective of something that, in a vacuum, we might not even protect — if other people say it out loud too. We won’t feel so sensitive, because we know it’s just one thing, not a pattern. You can hate this show/book/movie for girls and it won’t remind me of everything else I’ve ever heard about things made with me as an audience in mind.
And really, even now, I don’t think almost any of it — CHICK stuff — is stupid at all. Most of it still says something, however little, about what is — what it’s like — to be a woman. Who’s to say that isn’t serious? It’s the most serious thing I can think of.