This is one of those times, when I want to cursorily blog something, and I know I should actually be thinking about it more in-depth, and then write about it, but instead I just have the urge to open Blogger and basically vomit and think about it later. I've been reading the Jezebel comments around the Jezebel 25 list - I've found it interesting. There is a lot of criticism that the pub chose only basically photogenic, mostly white, un-fat, pretty, pretty-privileged women for their list. I wondered that as well when I received the instructions for the photoshoot, or was at the photoshoot, all of us styled in dresses and glossed with Dior makeup palettes, that there seemed to be only one type of girl, or woman, desired, only femme and fairly comely. I felt a little uncomfortable when I posted about the list on Facebook - which I'm of course very honored to be on - and everyone commented "gorgeous" or "insert some compliment here" about my photo, which showed me with my eyes closed, which had the effect of rendering me doubly an object, if that makes sense. It might have been pretty, but it wasn't a very writerly pose, and at the shoot, I wasn't a writer, I was a model, albeit a not very good one who had not much idea how to arrange her face in a presentable, non-threatening, pretty way. And I actually felt very sensitive after seeing the group portrait at the party, projected in large screens, because I felt I looked ugly in the photo, very awkwardly posed and stiff at least, not "myself."
What's interesting I think is this general zeitgeist-y conversation going on around the narratives of white, privileged, fairly attractive women, and whether these women's narratives (their TV shows, their novels, their memoiristic stories) are being perhaps more privileged or prioritized than others. I think I contributed to this, somewhat, or am seen in the tradition of this, because of the title of my blog post "All the Sad Young Pretty Girls" dealing with Marie C., wherein I assert that pretty girls who have often been object-muses, like Zelda Fitzgerald, or Jean Seberg's characters in her films, have a right to assert their own narrative, to tell their own stories. I still feel this, fairly intensely. But for me substitute "pretty" really for "young" - a lot of people interpret my novel Green Girl, I feel a bit unfairly, about being about an absolutely beautiful young girl, but really, the novel is about a young girl who has all of the fetchingness of youth, and is fairly attractive, although the novel itself I feel is actually about that immense, immense privilege, the tyranny of the white blonde princess as embodied by a Deneuve or Seberg in film, yet also the terrible alienation she experiences, from being the character in everyone else's stories. I think there is a certain oppression to the gaze, I'm interested in the subjectivity behind the glossy face. That said, there is another main character in the novel, crucially the first-person narrator, who is not young, who does not feel she is pretty, and in a way the work is a meditation on beauty and youth, of the invisible girl behind the counter, as V. Woolf compels us to write in a Room of One's Own, a passage I always read out loud with glee to my women's studies students:
Above all, you must illumine your own soul with its profundities and its shallows, and its vanities and its generosities, and say what your beauty means to you or your plainness, and what is your relation to the everchanging and turning world of gloves and shoes and stuffs swaying up and down among the faint scents that come through chemists’ bottles down arcades of dress material over a floor of pseudo-marble.
For we live in a culture where notions of beauty and thinness are intensely oppressive. Our narratives should be allowed to be about that desire, and that ambivalence. I would also like to add, not in a defensive way, hopefully, but in a self-interrogating way, that the girl-character of my first published novel, O Fallen Angel, is not pretty at all - she is in fact characterized as a grotesque, who as she descends into drug addiction and despair becomes even more pathetic. I think the one thing my writing so far has in common is that I'm interested in the subjectivity of the young woman, and the subjectivity of the woman writer. My memoir Heroines deals a lot with ideas of vanity and obsession over beauty - I also position the figure of the "hag", such as Jane Bowles and Zelda and Vivien(ne) Eliot turned into, as what afforded them loss of protection and privilege, but it was also in that space perhaps where they could exist more as writers. I don't really figure it out - it's more of a tension within the book - the woman writer, who needs to be a monster, but wants to visually still look angelic, at times. The novel I'm writing now, a diptych that is a possessed picaresque in the mode of Sade's Juliette and Justine, features a rather feral girl-libertine named Monkey who is the opposite of a princess-y, Deneuvian type, like Ruth is in Green Girl.
By the way I have just discovered Kitty Pryde, whose princess-tattoo is up above. I want to read novels written by girls like Kitty Pryde. Maybe I don't. No, I do. I have also become obsessed with reading everything by and about Cat Marnell, the no-ex xoJane columnist who has been publicly documenting her drug use, fixation with beauty, and disintegration. I've also discovered through Emily Gould's blog this amazing Tumblr, that deals a lot with image, and a lot of my obsessions, in such a gorgeously written and erudite way. This is the writer on Cat Marnell:
I dislike the compulsory first-person that the ladyblog genre has instituted, and xojane is the worst of the offenders. “It Happened To Me” is the least interesting phrase in all of literature. But I care about narcissism as an aesthetic location, as a way of interrupting and bloodying up the continuous self. I care about experiencing the self as a crater that you can’t crawl out of. Cat Marnell, possibly mostly by accident, is absurdly skilled at evoking that state. I wish her good things, but I also wish her to never, ever write a recovery memoir.
"Narcissism as an aesthetic location, as a way of interrupting and bloodying up the continuous self." God, that's amazing. I feel I have been thinking this, perhaps, in this ongoing essay I'm working on on boundaries and oversharing, but couldn't articulate this half as gorgeously.