RARA-AVIS: Hard-boiled Dames, hmmm

From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 15 Jul 2001

Sunday, July 8, 2001 http://www.calendarlive.com/top/1,1419,L-LATimes-Books-X!ArticleDetail-37826

Grrrlz 2 Men KILLER WOMAN BLUES Why Americans Can't Think Straight About Gender and Power By Benjamin DeMott Houghton Mifflin: 256 pp., $26

     In "Killer Woman Blues," DeMott argues that popular culture is pushing women toward a masculine identity whose signature is toughness. He's referring to the ruthless aggression, cutthroat competitiveness and cavalier disregard for intimacy displayed by so many female characters in films, sitcoms, self-help books and even literature. DeMott maintains that this process of "women-becoming-men" is a profound violation of the original feminist vision, with dire consequences for all of humankind.
     DeMott's thesis is not entirely convincing, but his premise certainly is. He assembles such an arsenal of examples--including more than 150 recent films--that it seems undeniable: Women are embracing a new model in which autonomy and aggression are valorized. At the same time, DeMott asserts, there is a comparable shift in the masculine ideal. The "male sensitif ," as DeMott calls him, is a staple in high-rated sitcoms and top-grossing films such as "Friends" and "Jerry Maguire." As women learn to fight back, men begin to feel back, and for DeMott, this empathetic figure is an emblem of men becoming women. Is that bad? DeMott thinks so.

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