- Undeniably Great Genius John Updike, “A&P”
Roth, Updike, Bellow, Kundera: these men, whose works are openly and earnestly misogynist in a way that you will only ever see at points of history wherein male privilege is seriously and successfully challenged, become a necessary part of one’s education and social capital, if one is to make it in academic or “intellectual” or “literary” circles. You cannot simply avoid, say, Phillip Roth. (Never read a whole book; never intend to read one; understand there’s a lot of forcible “face-fucking” involved. Did read the rest of those dudes, however!) If you do that, you are out of touch or unintelligent. You also cannot object to Phillip Roth on the grounds of his misogyny, because then you have bad taste and are a philistine who prizes politics over artistic achievement. (Didn’t know it was either/or, but: OK!) So basically what you have to do, if you are a woman or even a pro-feminist man, is to approve misogyny, be complicit with it, promote and praise it (or be a “good sport,” that is, indifferent and not all passionate or personally affected by it – “ha ha, yeah, it’s there, but note how detached and unmoved I am by this because the humanity of women such as myself is something I would never take it upon my weak little lady shoulders to defend”) in order to prove your worth within that field, and that whole process discourages women from getting involved or from making their voices heard, because, unsurprisingly, a whole lot of women are not comfortable with that level of complicity in their own oppression.
It definitely affected me, in precisely that way: after one particularly harsh experience with a sexist professor who marked my papers down for gender analysis (“too personal; I detect anger rather than appreciation; we must always strive to respect these great achievements”) my feelings about this dynamic, which I had observed and experienced in the past, finally overwhelmed me and divested me of the urge to struggle or to believe that what I had to say would ever be valued. I basically gave up on applying to grad schools and stopped writing more than a page a month; most months, I didn’t even get around to writing the page. That block lasted for about three years. This year, I am saying, is when I finally got over the “what’s the use” feeling this professor gave me. I can’t believe that I’m the only person this has happened to, or that every woman who experiences this eventually gets over it. I believe important, original voices are being silenced, and that is bad news. It also, by the way, reiterates the misogynist message within the works themselves: women exist to gratify and praise men, are to be condemned when they criticize or challenge men, and should never seek to compete with or stand alongside of men intellectually, for they are lesser beings.
I view writing as a form of resistance now. I view not shutting up, in general, as a form of resistance. So, because Art and Life are actually not two completely separate spheres (shocker!) I present to you: the various Ghosts of John Updike.
Ha ha, he doesn’t find her desirable, because she can use thoughts and words to form opinions which she then communicates through speech! Based on nothing more than this clip, I have decided that Dick Armey is betrothed to a RealDoll. No “prattle” from her, nosiree!
THE JOHN UPDIKE APPROACH TO FILM CRITICISM:Anyway, the movie: Right off the bat, it looks pretty great and acts pretty stupid. (Insert a joke about a girl here.)
Ha ha, because girls who are smart are undesirable, and girls who are desirable are dumb, so there is basically always a reason to dislike any girl! Or is it that all girls are dumb? Help me, Josh Modell of the A.V. Club, your words are confusing my poor stupid woman-brain!
THE JOHN UPDIKE APPROACH TO WORLD HISTORY:
Quick briefing: Jessica Alba claimed Sweden was officially neutral during WWII. People thought that she was a dumb bimbo because, really, didn’t she mean Switzerland? Then they realized that Jessica Alba was officially smarter than them (and me!) because Sweden was, in fact, officially neutral during WWII. This guy is really upset about this, and writes the following [via Pandagon]:
Illustrated “A&P” style with pictures of her nekkid or in swimsuits, AWESOME. Because her sole worth lies in arousing guys that she doesn’t even know, and her mind is in no way connected to that worth and in fact diminishes it, so let’s wish aloud that she would never use it and jerk off on her image in a way that is obscurely intended as an insult which puts her in her place, huzzah!
THE JOHN UPDIKE APPROACH TO JOHN UPDIKE:
The crystalline descriptiveness of his prose, the kind that makes lesser writers suck in their breath with envy, has always been used against him as an argument that his writing was all gloss and no depth, the way plain Janes insist the pretty blonde must also be brainless.
Ha ha, because he knows that women are all consumed with envy and competitiveness, because it is a stereotype that has been in currency for approximately forever (you can find it, for example, in John Updike’s “A&P”!) and therefore has got to be true. Am I right, fellas? Oh, wait: not everyone who reads is a fella? In fact, women tend to read more than men, and also to buy more books? WHAT THE HELL, DUDE.
You can hear it from crazy bloggers. You can hear it from published writers. You can hear it from Great Figures in Literature. You can hear it from elected representatives. What you can’t un-hear, once you tune in to it, is that it is always exactly the same thing.