The Pornography of Equality


Markha Valenta in Berfrois:

When Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963, “the problem that has no name” was the problem of college-educated housewives sitting at home being bored to death. Today, the “problem that has no name” is more widespread, more alluring and more aggressive. Its most insidious aspect is how close it comes to the licit ways in which women are used to lure, seduce, persuade and sweetly tease those who see them. To buy more. And more. Promising to make us sexy and our eyes glaze in pleasure. In the commercials saturating our public spaces. Thebestselling novel now rising high on sadomasochistic frisson. The film crossing and uncrossing its legs.

We like to think that these are metaphors. That the impossibly beautiful things calling out to us, seductively and low-voiced – to be them, to desire them, to touch and possess that thing they have, their hot sexiness on the edge or pure life itself – don’t literally mean it. Or do mean it, but then only in order to sell us sandwiches and Victoria’s secrets. Or as a bit of diversion from boredom. And yet, the constant presence of their siren-calls wherever we look, day in and day out doing their best to arouse in us some amalgam of desire to be, to possess, to have what they have, is striking.

Of course there is a steady stream of documentaries, manifestos and little squeaks of protestagainst this state of affairs. They include everyone from Christian grandparents to radical feminists to immigrant imams affronted in their moral sensibilities. But we studiously ignore them. They come and go without changing a thing. Rather like the tide.

But now something has happened that for a moment has made our societies’ traffic in women’s sexual assets a possible problem.