"Virtue signaling", a term most often used by conservatives criticizing the lift. It is a bipartisan, even apolitical action. Few of us are totally immune to the practice, as it intersects with real desire for political integrity. Posting photos from a protest against border family separation, as I did while writing this, is a microscopically meaningful action, an expression of genuine princple, and also, inescapable, some sort of attempt to signal that I am good.
The internet has already rewired the brains of its uers, returning us to a state of primitive hyperawareness and istraction while overloading us with much more sensory input than was ever possible in primitive times. It has already built an ecosystem that runs on exploiting attention and monetizing the self.
5 intersecting problems:
1. how the internet is built to distend our sense of identity;
2. how it encourages us to overvalue our opinions;
3. how it maximizes our sense of opopsition
4. how it cheapens our understanding of solidarity
5. how it destoys our sens of scale.
Goffman observes the difference between doing osmething and expressing the doing of something between feeling something and conveying a feeling. "The representation of an activity will vary in some degreee from teh activity itself and therefore inevitably misrepresent it." Goffman writes. The internet is engineered for this sort of misrepresentation: it's desinged to enoucrage us to create certain impressions rather than allowing these impressions to arise "as an incidental by-product of acitivity."
There is a version of this mutual escalation that applies to any belif system, which brings me back to Bari Weiss and all other writers who have fashioned themselves as brave contrarians, building entire arguments on random protests and harsh tweets, making themselves deeply dependent on the people who hate them the people they hate. It is nearly impossible, today, to separate engagement from magnification. Trolls and bad writers and the president know better than anyone: when you call someone terrible, you just end up promoting their work.
The political philopher Sally Scholz separates solidarity into three categories:
- social solidarity, which is based on common experience
- civic solidarity, which is based on moral obligation to a community;
- political solidarity, which is based on a shared commitment to a cause.
The ideal woman has always been generic. I bet you can picture the version of her that runs the show today. She's of indeterminate age but resolutely youthful presentation. She's got glossy hair and the clean, shamelss expression of a person who believes she was made to be looked at. She is often luxuriating when you see her - on remote beaches, under stars in the desert, across a carefully styled table, surrounded by beautiful possessions or photogenic friends. Showcasing herself at leisure is either the bulk of her work or an essential part of it; in this, she is not so unusual - for many peopel today, especially for women, packaging and broadcasting your iamage is a readily monetizable skill. She has a personal brand, and probably a boyfriend or husband: he is the physical relization of her constant, unseen audience, reaffirming her status as an interesting subject, a worthy object, a self-generating spectacle with a viewership attached.
Technology, in fact, has made us less than oppositional: where beauty is concerned, we have deployed technology not only to meet the demands of the system but to actually expand these demands. The realm of what is possible for women has been exponentially expanding in all beauty-related capacities - think of the extended Kardashian experiments in body modification, or the young models whose plastic surgeons have given them entirely new faces - and remained stagnant in many other ways.
If the childhood heroine accepts the future from a comfortable distance, and if the adolescent is blindly thrust toward it by forces beyond her control, the adult heroine lives within this long-anticipated future and finds it dismal, bitter, and disappointing. Her situation is generally one of premature and artificial finality, in which getting married and having children has prevented her from living the life she wants.
We know what that one way looks like: marriage, otherhood, grace, industriousness, mandatory bliss. PRescriptions about female behavior, Solnit notes, are often disingenuously expressed in terms of happiness - as if we really want women to be beautiful, selfless, hardworking wives and mothers because that's what will make them happy, when models of female happiness have always tended to benefit men and economically handicap women (and still, as with the term "girlboss," often defined in reference to male power even when theorized in an ostensibly emancipatory way).
...in marriage, women had served as vehicles for families to transfer and retain wealth.
Female literary characters, in contrast, indicate the condition of being a woman. They are condemned to a universe that revolves around sex and family and domsticity. Their stories circle quesitons of love and obligation - love being, as the critic Rachel Blau DuPlessis writes, the concept "our culture uses [for women] to absorb all possible Bildung, success/failure, learning, education, and transition to adulthood. "
Difference was not the problem; it was the beginning of the solution. That realization, they decided, would be the foundation of their sense that they were free.
I cling to the Milan women's understanding of these literary heroines as mothers. I wish I had learned to read them in this way years ago - with the same complicated, ambivalent, essential freedom that a daughter feels when shen looks at her mother, understanding her as a figure that she simultaneously resisits and depends on; a figure that she uses, cruelly and lovingly and gratefully, as the base from which to become soemthing more.
Chopped and screwed mimics the lean feeling - a heady and dissociative security, as if you're moving very slowly toward a conclusion you don't need to understand. It induces a sense of permissive disorientation that melds perfectly to Houston, a place where a full day can pass without you ever seeming to get off the highway, where the caustic gleam of daytime melts into a fluorescent polluted sunset and then into a long and swampy night. Chopped ans screwed picked up something about Houston that connects impurity to absolution. It was its own imaginary freeway, oozing with syrup, defining the city's limits, bounding it like the Loop.
Chopped and screwed sounded right to me as soon as I heard it, even though it would be years before I began to understand the context in which it was produced. Like religion, it provided both ends of a total system. Its sound entangled sin and salvation; it held a tug of unease, a blanket of reassurance> it was as ominous and comforting as a nursery rhyme, this first taste of the way that an open acknowledgment of vice can feel as divinely willed, as spiritual - even more so - than the concealment often required to be good.
The Repentagon trained me to feel at ease in odd, insular, extreme environments, a skill I wouln't give up for anything, and Christianity formed my deepest instincts: it gave me a leftist worldview, an obsession with everyday morality, an understandin of having been born in a compromised situation, and a need to continually investigate my own ideas about what it means to be good.
It is hard to draw the line between taking pleasure in God's purpose and algning God's purpose with what I take pleasure in.
Religion and drugs appealing for similar reasons. Both provide a path toward transcendence - a way of accessing an extrahuman world of rapture and pardon that, in both cases, is as real as it feels. The word "ecstasy" contains this etymologically, coming from the Greek ekstasis - ek meaning "out" and stasis meaning "stand". To be in ecstasy is to stand outside yourself: a wonderful feeling, one accessible through many avenues. The Screwtape demon tells his nephew, "Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at a particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us."
Rape is an inescapable function of a world that has been designed to give men a maximal amount of lawless freedom, she argues. It "cannot, logically, be just a vile anomaly in an ethical syste otherwise egalitarian and humane."
No crime is confounding and punitive the way rape is. No other violent offense comes with a bult-in alibi that can instantly exonerate the criminal and place respnsibility on the victim. There is no glorified interpersonal behavior that can be used to explain robbery or murder the way that sex can be used to explain rape. The best-case scenario for a rape victim in terms of adjudication is the worse-case scenario in terms of experience: for people to believe you deserve justice, you have to be destroyed. The fact that feminism is ascendant and accepted does not change this. The world that we believe in, that we're attempting to make real and tangible, is still not the world that exists.
I know that what I really resent is sexual violence itself. I resent the boys who never thought for a second that they were doing anything wrong. I resent the men they've become, the power they've amassed through subordination, the self-interrogation they ostentatiously hold at bay. I hate the dirty river I'm standing in, not the journalist and the college student who capsized in it.
But when she tried to tell it -maybe to somebody else, maybe to herself - the story had no power. It didn't sound, in the telling, anything like what it felt like in the living. It sounded ordinary, mundane, eminently forgettable, like a million things that had happened to a million other women - but that wasn't what it felt like to her.
I was twenty-one, and I was trying my hardest to be permeable, to be alive to other peple's suffering, but I didn't know how to stop being permeable when it was pointless, when it was ultimately narcissistic, when it did no good. I felt, monstrously, that there was no boundary between my situation and the larger situation, between my tiny injustices and the injustices everyone face. I was so naive, and violence seemed to be everywhere: a bus thundering through my village at night hit a person and kept driving, a drunk man threw a child against a wall. It was the first time that I fully understood myself to be subsumed within a social system that was unjust, brutal, punitive - that women were suffering because men had dominion over them, that men were suffering because they were expected to perform this dominion, that power had been stacked so unevely, so long ago, that there was very little I could do. .
I started wanting things to happen to me, as if to prove to myself that I wasn't crazy, wasn't hallucinating. Spiky with resentment, I glared at men who looked at me too closely, daring them to give me another event to write down in my little secret file of incidents, daring them to make visible the dawning sense I had of women living in a continual state of violation, daring them to help me realize that I wan't making any of this up. I wish I had known - then, in Peace Corps, or in college - that the story didn't need to be clean, and it didn't need to be satisfying; that, in fact, it would never be clean or satisfying, and once I ralized that, I would be able to see what was true.
So many things are deemed unruly in women that a woman can seem unruly for simply existing without shame in her body - just for following her desires, no matter whether those desires are liberatory or compromising, or, more likely, a combination of the two. A women is unruly if anyone has incorrectly decided that she's too much of something, and if she, in turn, has chosen to believe that she's just fine. She's unruly even if she is hypothetically criticized.
On the plane back from Kyrgyzstan, I was a raw nerve, fragile in a way that I had never been before - flattened out by the awful juxtaposition between my obscene power as an American and my obscene powerlessness as a woman, and by an undiagnosed vase of TB, and by my own humiliating inability to live comfortably in a situation where I couldn't achieve or explain my way oout of every bind.
When a man and a woman combine their unpaid domestic obligations under the aegis of tradition, the woman usually ends up doing most of the work - a fact that is greatly exacerbated by the advent of kids. There is an idea that women get to Scrooge -dive in heaps of money after divorce proceedings, but in fact, women who worked while married see their incomes go down by 20% on average after a divorce, whereas men's incomes go up by more than that.
Gender inequality is so entrenched in staight marraige that it persists in the face of cultural change as well as personal intensions.
How is it possible that so much of contemporary life feels so arbitrary and so inescapable? Thinking about weddings has not been very useful to me: developing an understanding of the material conditions that produced the wedding ritual, its basis in inequality and its role in perpetuating that inequlity, hasn't really meant a thing. It feels like a trick, a trick that has worked and is still working, that the bride remains the image of womanhood at its most broadly celebrated - and that planning a wedding is the only period in a woman's life where she is universally and unconditionally encouraged to conduct everything on her terms.
It's possible that, just as marriage conceals its true nature through the elaborate ritual of the wedding, I have been staging this entire production to hide from myself some reality about my life. If I object to the wife's diminishment for the same reason that I object to the bridge's glorification, maybe this reason is much simpler and more obvious that I've imagined: I dont' want to be diminished, and I do want to be glorified - not in one shining moment, but whenver I want.
This seems true, but I still feel that I can't trust it. Here, the more I try to uncover whatever I'm looking for, the more I feel that I'm too far gone. I can feel the low, uneasy hum of self-delusion whevever I think about all of this - a tone that gets louder the more I try to write and cancel it out. I can feel the tug of my deep and recurring suspicion that anything I might think about myself must be, somehow, necessarily wrong.
In the end, the safest conclusions may not actually be conclusions. We are asked to understand our lives under such impossibly convoluted conditions. I have always accommodated everything I wish I were opposed to. Here, as in so many other things, the "thee" that I dread may have been the "I" all along